The Wednesday Update: Mission Accomplished

Welcome to another Wednesday update, again a rare edition that’s actually on Wednesday! A bit less on content this week due to it being my kid’s half term!

GWiz Update

The mission was always to make it to my Partner’s house in Sandhurst, and guess what it did it! No issues at all, max out about 45mph but I think it has more in it!

I have 1 small issue to sort with the GWiz, when breaking the re-gen system causes a burst of over 70v to the controller which causes the car to shut down. It’s a simple setting to change but needs a special cable.

Vex Tank

So on Tuesday, I wanted to start prototyping a simple tank to use as a platform for outside. It took about 2 hours to build and works pretty well until it got to the brick test. I think I am going to make a slightly larger more powerful one. At the same time, I want to test it again on a similar platform with different types of wheels (e.g Omni) which will hopefully give me some evidence on what works best out on the pavements.

ROS Lidar Robot

So I managed to get part of my old VEX ROS lidar robot working, I had missed out on some key bits of information in the readme but managed to get parts of it working. This was a great learning platform for ROS as it was purely built from the ground up by myself. The teleops control worked to control it, the Lidar also worked, the only issue was a lot of Errors were generated

Holiday

On a short holiday with my dad to Welles and Cheddar, I managed to get an Anki Overdrive set from a charity shop, this was awesome in its day and uses AI to drive the cars.

The Wednesday Update: Gwiz Edition

Welcome to another Wednesday update, this one is full of achievements!! Hold on to your pants!!!

The Gwiz in all its glory!

The Gwiz did a hill!

To make sure I can drive the Gwiz to my partners’ house I needed to check it would get up a rather steep hill. It’s not very long but is quite steep. I took a run-up and managed to get to the top of it at just under 30mph.

The Gwiz hit 45mph!

Erm, I would not recommend this, it’s rather scary, imagine being in a cardboard box and thinking you may crash into a wall at high speed. It’s very noisy and very bouncy.

The Giwz overtook a skateboarder

Well, he wasn’t going very fast but made me laugh!

The Gwiz did a shopping trip!!!

Yup the car has now done something actually useful, I mean it has cost me hundreds of pounds to get to this point but I can now make it to Morrisons.

I feel that the Gwiz has achieved a lot and only had one issue which I think is an overvoltage issue

VEX Robotics

So I had a bit of spare time during the week and managed to fire up my VEX V5 and VEX IQ robotics kit and get them set up to be useful. My aim is to use VEX EDR or V5 to control the Gwiz.

VEX V5 is pretty cool and even features a camera for tracking objects

ROS and Turtlebot

I also managed to fire up my old ROS (Robotics Operating System) Turlebot robot which is super cool. It has all sorts of sensors like a Kinetic type sensor for camera and depth detection, bumper sensors, and ultrasonics. This is the perfect robot to learn ROS on. It’s powered by a Nvidia TK1 so can do a lot of machine learning.

This is a point cloud of the back of me

MakeBlock CyberPi Go Kit

Electronics Course

And to make the evenings on the sofa even more exciting I have started the electronics course on Udemy that’s is on my to-do list.

The Wednesday Update: Cleaning Edition

Welcome to another Wednesday update, this one is a little light on robotics content due to me spending most of the time organizing and cleaning my robotics areas. Due to the kindness of companies like LEGO, VEX Robotics Meccano, and MakeBlock, who in the past have supported my creations and sent me free products (Thank you), this has ended up with me having a lot of stuff. Knowing this and adding 3 epic kids to the mix, and the fact I buy a lot of random stuff means I am really struggling for useful space.

The Plan (A different plan from the educational plan)

Based on all the stuff I have (and not wanting to buy more), the plan I came up with for building robotics (prototyping) was to use VEX Robotics EDR range which is a metal-based robotics platform that I have used a lot in the past. Because it is metal and the motors are generally very powerful it makes a great platform for building bigger stuff. The main goal of this Wednesday’s timeslot was to locate the EDR stuff and get it out of the garage! This turned quickly into a tidying up job (and a trip down memory lane) which now allows me to get into my work area in the garage!

This was the sorted VEX EDR stuff I had, in nice colorful draws. This is around 1/3 of the EDR stuff I have due to me usually building large projects.
This is my old robotic area in the garage, this used to be where I built a lot of things, I even have a mannequin to hold my cables lol. This was primarily set up for LEGO building.
These are some of the larger robots I have built, from the one of the first (George) all the way up to a prototype Vex V5 one.
Back in 2018, this was going to be my main test platform, running the latest Vex V5 stuff that wasn’t even out. However, due to work/family/divorce, I massively failed to deliver ūüôĀ

It’s an odd feeling to go over some of the cool things that I have built in the past. I look back and wonder if the 2010-2017 crazy LEGO/VEX years I had were my finest work (Except for my kids). I do miss the inspirational competitions and events that I got the chance to go to. Not to showcase my work but to meet the next generation of scientists and engineers. The kids I met blow my mind with what someone so young could do. I truly hope I get a chance to get involved in that space again!

Check out the film on Disney for an inside look ūüôā

Headache

This afternoon kicked started the old grey matter, the brain started going 4000 miles an hour. Which in turn gave me a rather horrible headache. At one point I realised I wasn’t driving to my partner’s house but had randomly followed a car off into Farnborough (don’t worry I was safe)

What do I do next? Burf.co, Gwiz, Inmoov robot, MakeBlock, wheelchair robot, Robot head, courses, Vex EDR, VEX IQ …..
To this, I really don’t have an answer. This is where I am right now. I want to learn about robots, I want to build robots, I am fortunate to have a lot of options but at the same point boy, it blows your mind.

At the moment I am going to try and stick to the plan unless there are any quick wins.

Misc

I turned 41 and feel old!

VEX Worlds 2017 – Robotics Competition

Sorry for the late post about VEX Worlds, I thought I would have more time after worlds to catch up with stuff, sadly (well not really), the kids have been mega active.  My eldest son played his first football tournament, had a holiday, lots of family stuff!

So, VEX Worlds, what an amazing experience, I went along for the VEX EDR side of the competition (this year it was split EDR / IQ) as I was showing off the EDR Tank.  Sadly I had to leave the US early as my son, Max was ill.  Still a very cool experience!

So, the EDR tank, well it performed really really well in remote control mode. ¬†I mean the thing was fairly slow but must have covered MILES! ¬†The batteries never died on me, nor did any motors! ¬†I did kill a few Omniwheels, however, that’s to be expected. ¬† Even though I left early, the EDR tank did not and so others drove it around. ¬†I have not received it back yet to see how bad it is now, but I am sure it will be fine.

The autonomous side was a bit of a failure, to be honest, and looking back I had set up myself to fail and I will explain why. ¬†The¬†autonomous side was using ROS (Robotic operating system) which is an industry standard. ¬†I was using a Neato Lidar system which is awesome however it only had a range of 5 meters and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to work out where I was, and where I needed to go via building up a map. ¬†SLAM works by detecting features of the surrounding area to work out where it is. ¬†When you’re in a hall that’s hundreds of meters wide with very little features, a sensor with a range of 5 meters is practically useless. ¬†In the end, I just showed kids how it worked on my laptop using RVIZ. ¬†If I had to do this properly I would need to invest in a proper LIDAR system with a much greater range. ¬†Another aspect which makes this very hard is¬†all the people moving around, how can SLAM pick up features if they are constantly moving!

Overall, the EDR tank was hugely popular, I gave tons of fist bumps, high fives, etc, people just thought it was cool, just a little slow.

Next year, if I did a vehicle again, I would have to make it a lot faster and forget about advance sensors etc!

Here are some videos of VEX World and the EDR TANK:

Robot making schoolgirls set for world championships

Nothing made me happier to see a BBC article about these 2 school girls.  They have qualified to go to VEX Worlds next month which is held in the US to compete against 500 other teams from all over the world.

I have been lucky enough to meet these two (aged 8 and 9) a few times when I have been a VEX Judge.   They are extremely talented bright kids for their age.  Each time I have met them, they have walked away with an award!

For the full details please check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-39410855

This weeks update :) Big Bang, VEX Worlds.

So, last week I was at the Big Bang Science Fair, I was asked to be a judge for the VEX Robotics National Championship ūüôā


I also managed to get VEX the VEX Tank ready to ship it to the US for VEX WORLDS, build-wise, it’s complete, software wise, it’s not ūüôĀ

My flights have been booked for VEX WORLD for next month, so full speed ahead to finish the software!  Anyone know ROS?

 

The VEX EDR Tank

Over the last few month’s, I have been building a vehicle out of VEX EDR with the aim of it to self-drive. This is my first big project with VEX EDR, I usually build large stuff out of LEGO Mindstorms or VEXIQ. My view was that VEX EDR would be easier as it is a) made out of metal as opposed to plastic, and b) more powerful. I thought it would take me a week to make the vehicle, and the rest of the time would be on software. I had to also learn ROS (Robotic Operating System).

It actually turned out more challenging than I expected. Due to my lack of experience with EDR, I just assumed metal would just be stronger, and the motors would just work. However the first version of the Tank collapsed under my weight, and it took around 10 versions to get it to move me (95kg) without the motors shutting down after 5 seconds. Unlike LEGO and VEXIQ, EDR motors had a protection circuit in (PTC) which shut down the motor if it gets too hot or draws too much power. This is, of course, a good feature to protect the motor, however, it made my project very difficult.

I went from 8 motors, direct drive to 14 motors geared down to 2.44. The 8 motors could move me at a rapid speed but would just shut down after a few second.

Here is the progress of how it went

Current state

So I managed to get the Tank to a point where it worked, it was not as fast as I hoped however it seems reliable.  Next is the software.  ROS is a big subject to learn, there are lot of books on it and it is not the easiest thing to learn.  I have actually made some good progress on this thanks to the community.  Stay tuned to my next post about ROS.

 

 

Mr Purple : VEX SMART RADIO : VEX WORLD FINALS 2016

So, the first part of this year, I have been swamped with VEX stuff to do, it’s been pretty good fun actually. ¬†I now have lot’s of VEX EDR (the metal stuff) to play with. ¬†Very excited about that! ¬†I have also been invited to VEX World Finals in the US! ¬†The aim is to build some smartphone controlled robots¬†that show off the power of the Smart Radio. Thanks to Xander¬†and RobotC¬†it is now possible to do 2 way communication between VEXIQ and iOS

Code is here! https://github.com/burf2000/VEXIQ_iOS_ROBOTC

Anyway, so MR PURPLE, I went in to the garage, I came out with MR PURPLE.  3  DOF per arm and his head moves!  Super happy with him

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VEX and the Big Bang Science Fair

So I have been asked by VEX Robotics to build 2 small robotics for Big Bang Science show at the NEC. ¬†The 2 robotics will be on stage as helpers. ¬†It’s a super fun idea, focus is reliability! ¬†The robots need telescopic arms to push buttons and be able to push out a bottle of water from their chests.

Here are 2 initial videos I did showing progression

I actually got to see the robots on stage and they worked perfectly!

What I enjoyed about this was trying to make VEX stuff look cool, it’s actually harder than it is with LEGO ūüôā

 

 

Skills Show 2015 : Review

The Skills show is a massive careers show at the NEC, it has over 70,000 + people visiting and boy it’s busy. It covers everything from hairdressing, welding, fitness¬†to joining the army.

The O2 / NSPCC / The Lab had a awesome display and we stayed pretty busy throughout.  The LEGO displays went down like a bomb!

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Got to have a chat with VEX UK and Studica Ltd (who do Tetrix and Fischertechnik).  It was really nice seeing all the different types of robotics platforms for kids to learn on.  

I loved the fact that Forensic Science was next to the butcher area.

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Great event to take the kids to!