Archive for the 'Robotics' Category

Targeted marketing surveys?

Ok, this is somewhat scary.

targeted-ads.png

I didn’t even think about the poll until after I’d clicked an option. Should I be worried that “they” know enough about me purely from information gathered autonomously to ask if I liked a spiritual sequel to KOTOR or a game about parkour better? Both of which titles I eagerly anticipate playing within the next five years? I don’t even think I’m in a gaming group. Well, maybe I am. Crap, I’m in like five of them.

I generate information for humans, not robots. I really wish Facebook had a robots.txt option.

But seriously. I answered the poll. That’s even worse! They have extracted more information from me! Soon they will derive vital information from my preference, like my secret plans to have a finger removed in order to insert an assassination blade. Airport security will start stopping everyone with four fingers and then where will I be? Not en route to stabbing evil Facebook scrubbing bots, that’s where.

In other, tangentially related, information, Nineteen Eighty-Four recently landed on my Christmas reading list. Stuff that in your hat and eat it, robot!

p.s. What happened to the last one percent, I wonder? Dead, most likely. Sad.

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Line-tracking robots beware

Today I volunteered at the FIRST nationals and helped set the fields up. The Vex fields, anyway. We assembled two operator control practice fields, an autonomous practice field, and a miniature, Vex-sized version of this year's FRC field. Then I was asked to tape up the lines on the regular autonomous competition field. Let me elaborate. These are the lines that competeing robots will use light sensors and such to find and follow. If they aren't just right, half the robots won't function correctly.

It disturbs me deeply that instead of hiring a team of trained experts, or at least getting someone with one of those laser-guided ultra accurate rulers, they picked me. I was armed with the following:

  • A broken tape measure. It started at the 3' mark.
  • Stretchy tape. Seriously, that stuff will easily extend an extra inch or so if you pull it out straight.
  • Thick tape. It was about 0.2' thinner then the official rules called for.

What disturbs me even more is that almost no-one else seemed to notice or care, unless a line was more then three inches off.

Ah, well. I did my best, anyway. It should be fine. But, um, ya'll do have fallback emergency routines in your code, right?


And a shout-out to Penguinator. I missed you man, sorry. Maybe tomorrow. You got my note, right?

I spoke and corporate America listened!

A year and a half ago, I wrote of my dream: A robotic lawn mower that would save the summers of teens all over the globe. It took me months and minutes of hard thinking, tears, and bloodshed. And now, some bright person at some company listened to me! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! (I chortled in my joy)

However, with their excitement in designing, manufacturing and marketing this thing, they made one slightly minor mistake: They forgot to ship me one. I clearly stated in my previous entry:

So, yeah.
Oh, and if any companies actually make this, I want one for free because I came up with it.

I think the burden of proof, innocence and justice now rests in their court.

I humbly request the minds behind the LawnBott to think this over slowly. Ship one to me, or I shall to follow my trail of justice. All vermin will be ignited!

Thank you.

All of the buffalo has been used

The Vex Challenge is over.
How did we do? Let me just say that out of about 22 teams, we came in 15th place. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. It was just ridiculous at times. A transmitter randomly inverted the drive-train controls. We forgot to switch the jumper chip into OperatorControl mode for one match and the robot drove into a wall. Later, we fixed one half of the drive-train just in time for a match, only to have the other half break at a critical moment about 30 seconds later.
Almost everything that could go wrong, did. With the possible exception of pretty magic smoke from the motor modules.
Oh, well.

It wasn’t all bad, though. One of our final alliance partners, team 83, was pretty awexome. They came and met with the team before the alliance selection & team captain meeting was over. How cool is that? “Tools, parts, mentors, whatever you guys need.” they said.
I don’t care who they gave the gracious professionalism award to. #83: you guys deserved it.

We also met up with one of our alliance partners from last year, #35. Almost everyone had moved on to an FRC team, but we got on with the new guys pretty well. And of course, Jeremiah the social butterfly made friends with half the people in the building. Little did he know that there was an FRC meet downstairs.

Also, there was some guy from a team I really liked last year who randomly popped up and started hanging out with us. I don’t remember what his name was or what team he was from, but I found it highly enjoyable to talk to someone not on FVC 40 who knew what I was talking about as I coded.

Sadly, this is my last year in the Vex program. Aside from the fact that I’m ageing out, my university of choice is approximately six hundred miles away. Future coders will have to get my C expertise via email and aim.

But, anyway. We had a great team this year. FVC 40 will be a great team next year. Stampede on!

On the state of autnomous mode

The robot does not do anything in autonomous mode. With mere hours to go, I suppose this should worry me, but I’ve been desensitized to it by the fact it hasn’t done much of anything all week. Now, I can only watch in horror and eat taco chips as 7:30 AM, March 16th draws slowly closer.

And then, disaster struck.

Ok, so I finally got around to attempting to drive the robot manually. It didn’t work.

All the sensors and motors work fine with the online test program, wireless & tethered work the same, and I’ve tried three different transmitters. The transmitter is in mode 23 and it seems to make no difference if a jumper is in port 15. Yes, I’ve got a jumper in interrupt 6.

All that’s in the operator control function is a statement assigning tank mode to motors 2 and 3. In the process of debugging, I’ve cleared away everything else.

The scrimmage is in less then eight hours. Joy. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll find someone who can help there.

Vex Update 3ish

I’ve become the more-or-less unofficial electrician for the team. No one else did anything with the electronics at all, so I’ve figured out what needs to go where and sketched out a little graph of it.

I’m now using this graph as a refrence for my more-or-less official coding position on the team. As of tonight, the autonomous code can:

  • Follow a line (sorta)
  • Make a leap of faith from one line to another (untested)
  • Turn a given angle (With acuracy of within about 20 degrees. Needs fixing.)
  • Sense a wall about a foot in front of the ‘bot
  • …and stop before hitting said wall

That last one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised… :-p

What’s kinda scary is that the robot is pretty much built, but we’ve never had everything hooked up and running at once! The reason is, all our electronics are mounted around the parimiter of the robot; we have a sort of basket in the middle to store balls. This means all the cords have to go around the side of the basket, and the ones connected to the motors and sensors on the back of the robot are not long enough. We have some extenders on order, hopefuly they’ll get here before the Scrimmage on the 11th.

The Eleventh. That’s not even funny. The Eleventh. That’s just rediculous


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