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View Full Version : [Question(s)] Rover based competitions?



LinuxGuy
09-18-2009, 03:27 PM
I'm starting to get interested in robot competitions, specifically those that would be appropriate for rovers and possibly hybrids. The types of competitions I'm interested in are more task oriented rather than those based on completion speed. I'd love to see a smaller scale Robo-Magellan type competition for smaller robots - something that could be done on an indoor obstacle course.

I just don't think I will ever actually be able to compete in a full blown Robo-Magellan contest, due to the cost of building such a robot. However, I think the major portion of what is required for this contest could be incorporated into a contest for smaller scale robots like WALTER or ASTRID.



Cone finding could definitely be done.
Indoor navigation could be done, perhaps with beacon way points or cones.
Maze solving
Obstacle courses of various types.
Task completion
Various line following courses with varied complexity.
Object retrieval and transfer.

What does everyone think about this sort of thing? I know that it takes a fair amount of interested people to make something like this possible, not to mention a lot of hard work to make it all come together and work. I'm just trying to find out what is available right now, and other than at school levels, there doesn't seem to be a lot for wheeled robots.

I know that it has been difficult to get stuff like this going on a regular basis locally, which I think is sad. I think one of the biggest problems is getting somebody to take hold and coordinate, as well as getting others to help out with events.

Are event admins allowed to compete, except perhaps those they coordinate?

8-Dale

Adrenalynn
09-18-2009, 03:44 PM
By the time all is said and done, a Robo Magellan 'bot can be built for a couple hundred dollars. Or for nothing if you have a couple motors and a GPSr layin' around.

IMHO, the hardware is trivial. Most of the competitors I've seen are just running lightly modified remote controlled cars with a bit of processing grafted on their backs. It's in the programming, as always.

LinuxGuy
09-18-2009, 04:28 PM
By the time all is said and done, a Robo Magellan 'bot can be built for a couple hundred dollars. Or for nothing if you have a couple motors and a GPSr layin' around.
Have you actually built a full Robo Magellan capable robot and ran it in the contest? The money most of these competitors seem to have invested in their robots seems a bit extreme for what I am interested in. I'm not at all sure such a robot could be built for $200.00. You also may be assuming a different level of component availability from existing parts and/or projects. For instance, I definitely don't have easy access to much of what you have easy access too. :)

Our local robotics club has been trying to come up with a standardized platform for Robo Magellan, and I am not sure what the status of that is now since I have not been to a meeting in quite awhile. The last I knew, they were trying for a $200.00 - $500.00 total package cost and were working on some custom sensor layouts to get similar results as the much higher prices alternatives. It's probably time I started going to meetings again. :)


IMHO, the hardware is trivial. Most of the competitors I've seen are just running lightly modified remote controlled cars with a bit of processing grafted on their backs. It's in the programming, as always.
Each piece of hardware may be relatively trivial, but the combination of that with software, especially if vision is part of the package, doesn't seem trivial to me. Those cars may look lightly modified, but I have actually been able to get a close look at one or two, and they sure don't seem simple to me. If you are talking about starting out with one of the R/C truck platforms like the EMaxx that is very popular with Robo Magellan folks, that's about a $350.00 investment if you buy one new, but probably lower on eBay if you can find one.

I have wondered if Robo Magellan could be accomplished without expensive GPS and other sensors though. Sometimes, it looks like most of the Robo Magellan competitors are pretty much just using the same combinations of sensors and the only real difference is in their software and physical layout of the robot. I also wonder if different hardware setups would work.

The thing I am trying to find out about is if there are already competitions that exist which are oriented to robots more of the size of WALTER and ASTRID. This size platform is relatively easy for me to manage and work with, as long as I spread my spending over a very long time. I don't think I could manage a fully Robo Magellan capable robot though. With WALTER, and pretty soon ASTRID also, I think I could manage to outfit either with what it would take to do the activities I listed in my original post.

I'm thinking about robots that can fit within a 1' - 1.5' cube, which is quite a bit more restrictive than for Robo Magellan. I'll have to do some measuring on WALTER when I get him reassembled, to see if he would fit this size, but I am pretty sure he will, as would ASTRID. I'm also just looking for indoor events. Another rover platform I am real interested in is the Stinger, maybe even with the Serializer. From what I have read in the documentation for the Serializer, it looks like it just takes ASCII text commands over a serial link. It would be interesting to outfit a Stinger with Serializer with some on board processing to see what (and how much) I can do with it. Sometimes, doing more with less can be the best challenge of all. :)

Of course, you and I have very different levels of experience in most areas, so what may seem trivial to you is often not trivial to me. I'm still a rank newbie to all this in many, if not most, ways.

8-Dale

Adrenalynn
09-18-2009, 04:48 PM
I think I hear someone calling me over in some other thread...

lnxfergy
09-18-2009, 05:11 PM
I think the issue here is to define "expensive". I'm not aware of any large-scale annual competition that were the average competitor would be running a budget of only $200. Further, first time contestants are typically spending 2-3x as much as a veteran, simply because they don't know what works and what won't the first (and sometimes even second) time around.

For instance, I've competed in the Trinity Fire Fighting contest several times. I'd imagine that if we had a BOM for each bot, the average would be around $400-700 for a competitive bot. However, that's just the list of parts that made it into the final iteration. I'd imagine most first year contestants spend another $250-500 in stuff that doesn't end up getting used, gets blown up, or is found to be useless. That's not to say that $2000 robots haven't competed, or the opposite: last year, I won the Senior division with a $118 entry. He was slow, but reliable, and it was a really tough year on most competitors (Crater was in fact the only bot to finish all 3 runs in the non-kit senior division).

While I haven't competed in robo-magellan, we are currently putting together a team out here for the Mini Grand Challenge at Penn State. A competitive entry should be doable at either of those competitions for $500-1000 (not including stuff you bust/discard). Obviously any of the robo-one or mechwars contests will average about $1000 for the final cost of the robot.

I'd consider all the above to be "inexpensive" contests, there are plenty more that are much higher cost. Frankly, $200 doesn't buy you much these days. A pair of small motors/wheels, and a controller can easily approach that (and we are of course neglecting any tool/equipment costs). Sensors aren't cheap, and autonomy dictates a need of sensory. $500 for an autonomous robot is not unreasonable using mostly off-the-shelf components (most contests cater to beginners, as it gives them a goal to work towards, but beginners can of course get bogged down if they have to deal with all the details at once, hence off-the-shelf components rather than lots of custom or wirewrapped stuff).

What I think you may be describing more would be a mini-contest, which many clubs around the country do run (where competitors might have say 1-3months to prepare, rather than a whole year). For instance: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/10646

-Fergs

LinuxGuy
09-18-2009, 05:54 PM
I think the issue here is to define "expensive". I'm not aware of any large-scale annual competition that were the average competitor would be running a budget of only $200. Further, first time contestants are typically spending 2-3x as much as a veteran, simply because they don't know what works and what won't the first (and sometimes even second) time around.
When I mention the cost of a robot, I mean the actual cost of parts in the current build of the robot. This does not include the cost of parts previously used on an earlier version of the robot - just what is actually in the current build of the robot. I know I have spent far more on WALTER since 2006 than what is going to be in his actual v2.x build. He started out as a stock continuous rotation servo based kit way back in 2006 and his v2.x build will not have any of his original parts. I do still have most of the original parts, but would not reuse the original decks. I think, or am at least hoping, that WALTER v2.x will probably come in at $750.00 to $1000.00 total.


While I haven't competed in robo-magellan, we are currently putting together a team out here for the Mini Grand Challenge at Penn State. A competitive entry should be doable at either of those competitions for $500-1000 (not including stuff you bust/discard). Obviously any of the robo-one or mechwars contests will average about $1000 for the final cost of the robot.
I think for the types of competitions I am talking about, $500.00 - $1000.00 should be reasonable for a final build. Well, that's what I am hoping. :)


I'd consider all the above to be "inexpensive" contests, there are plenty more that are much higher cost. Frankly, $200 doesn't buy you much these days. A pair of small motors/wheels, and a controller can easily approach that (and we are of course neglecting any tool/equipment costs).
I agree. Last time I checked, you could barely get a kit robot with microcontroller and a few sensors for $200.00, and that would be a continuous rotation servo based kit like what I started out with.


Sensors aren't cheap, and autonomy dictates a need of sensory. $500 for an autonomous robot is not unreasonable using mostly off-the-shelf components (most contests cater to beginners, as it gives them a goal to work towards, but beginners can of course get bogged down if they have to deal with all the details at once, hence off-the-shelf components rather than lots of custom or wirewrapped stuff).
Yeah, at roughly $30.00 and up for decent sensors, they aren't inexpensive. I started out with just a single sensor - a Lynxmotion IRPD. That's all I had for quite awhile and then I added a Sharp IR ranger, and later a PING. That happened over a course of months though. I do have a 3-axis accelerometer and a compass, but have not integrated them into WALTER yet.


What I think you may be describing more would be a mini-contest, which many clubs around the country do run (where competitors might have say 1-3months to prepare, rather than a whole year). For instance: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/10646
I'll have to check out that link. I'm not sure I would classify what I am looking for as mini contests though. I think they are really full events in their own right. They are just oriented towards a different class of robot. I don't care how long it takes to prepare a robot for a given event. I just don't think there is enough for wheeled robots right now, at least not for the class of robot I am concentrating on. I know there has to be others out there like me who would be interested.

8-Dale

Adrenalynn
09-18-2009, 08:58 PM
>> at roughly $30.00 [..]decent sensors, they aren't inexpensive.

I was going to suggest knitting as a hobby, but it's not inexpensive either given that as our measure.

robologist
09-19-2009, 09:26 AM
Had to look to see, and found there's no PDXbot (http://www.portlandrobotics.org/events.php?link_id=24) from the Portland Robotics guys this year. They've had Robomagellan events in the past, and indoor stuff. Other events was the Robogames in San Fran that many here went to, and the upcoming Seattle Robothon (http://www.robothon.org/robothon/index.php) that I've been to a couple times in the past. Locally here, we've had an Outdoor Challenge, as well as indoor Quick Trip, Line Following, and Square Dance (http://dprg.org/competitions/roborama2009a/) challenges.

LinuxGuy
09-19-2009, 11:58 AM
Had to look to see, and found there's no PDXbot (http://www.portlandrobotics.org/events.php?link_id=24) from the Portland Robotics guys this year. We've had Robomagellan events in the past, and indoor stuff.
Yes, indeed they have had these. The problem is that nobody really wants to be the coordinator for this. We've had competitors from all over Oregon come in to compete, and some from neighboring states. I don't think I could handle coordinating something like this, so can't help out either. I might be able to handle working on a single event, but not the entire PDXbot (http://www.portlandrobotics.org/events.php?link_id=24).


Other events was the Robogames in San Fran that many here went to, and the upcoming Seattle Robothon (http://www.robothon.org/robothon/index.php) that I've been to a couple times in the past. Locally here, we've had an Outdoor Challenge, as well as indoor Quick Trip, Line Following, and Square Dance (http://dprg.org/competitions/roborama2009a/) challenges.
I'd love to go to RoboGames or other competitions, but traveling might be a problem for me. I'm going to have to do some more checking with our club. Maybe we should try doing much smaller shows more frequently - maybe 2 - 4 times a year with 2 or 3 separate parts.

What events for wheeled robots are available at RoboGames besides robot wars type stuff?

8-Dale

lnxfergy
09-19-2009, 12:14 PM
What events for wheeled robots are available at RoboGames besides robot wars type stuff?

There is robo-magellan and fire fighting to name 2, not sure of any others.

-Fergs

robologist
09-19-2009, 03:58 PM
One AVR based color tracker was/is the AVRcam (http://www.jrobot.net/Projects/AVRcam.html), not sure to what success it has been used to track the orange traffic cones in Robomagellan events. Think I heard about folks trying that or the CMUcam to home into cones once in their vicinity.

LinuxGuy
09-19-2009, 04:26 PM
One AVR based color tracker was/is the AVRcam (http://www.jrobot.net/Projects/AVRcam.html), not sure to what success it has been used to track the orange traffic cones in Robomagellan events. Think I heard about folks trying that or the CMUcam to home into cones once in their vicinity.
I'm aware of the AVRcam and CMUcams, but they are not what I want to use. I will most likely use the Blackfin camera (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/surveyor-srv-1-blackfin-camera.aspx), and there is already some code available for it and the AXON.

8-Dale