Here’s the plan….

Following this year’s contest (in March 2019), we had a team debrief to decide what we could do to improve the performance of PiDrogen in the future.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • We think it would be good to make the robot smaller.  The current robot (“P19”) is only slightly narrower than the rules permit (225mm) and Nathy feels this slowed him down on the obstacle course.  However, we do not want to compromise the obstacle clearing capacity of P19 so we are going to keep P19’s big wheels.
  • We also want to make the robot faster.  Many robots were faster than ours at the competition, although, not all appeared easy to control.  We plan to experiment with different motors and gear ratios to ensure that we can still exercise precise control with increased speed.
  • Whilst looking at speed and control we will probably rework P19’s video control software.  2019’s autonomous competitions were all conducted at 25% motor power, so we’re hoping for some big performance increases.
  • We didn’t do well in Pi-Noon this year; we were knocked out in round two.  We are going to trial the use of mecanum wheels so that P20 (PiDrogen’s evolution for the 2020 competition) can move in any direction and rotate simultaneously.  The hope is that the robot will be able to quickly move around the arena but always face it’s opponent.  This is going to be hard to drive, but Nathan (team PiDrogen’s driver) can fly drones and we will configure P20’s controls like those of a drone.  This requires a motor controller rework since we will need four independent motor control circuits.
  • P19’s RPi and touch screen are mounted on it’s back.  This was done to allow robot configuration and start/stop buttons to be accessible.  This turned out not to work well as some widgets in Tkinter cannot be resized and are therefore are too small to use with sausage fingers on a 4”screen. This location makes the RPi vulnerable so P20 will have the RPi within it’s hull.
  • Since the touch screen will be removed, configuration will take place via a WiFi connection with a wired ethernet backup.  We think we might build a USB connected screen with a few buttons to provide start/stop/game select/status feedback type functionality.
  • Finally, we have some plans to improve P19’s Nerf gun (which is too big and not accurate enough). We are going to try reducing the size of some of the components and mounting the laser sighting module with thumb screws to permit delicate adjustment.  We are going to try reducing the length of the darts and possibly weighting them so that they fly truer.  We are going to try casting new flywheels with built in spirals to spin the darts laterally as they fly, also to make them fly truer.  Lots of experiments will be needed on this and we need to find a way to measure the accuracy of the gun in an objective way.

Should be ready Monday week then…

OMG! We came first!

I know this post is rather late but WE WON! Well, we won the Advanced Category that is. You could have knocked us over with a piece of heat shrink.

Here’s our very lovely trophy…

We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who made Pi Wars possible, especially Mike & Tim: we had a lovely time and we can imagine how much work it was.

Now, please can we do Pi Wars 2020? Perhaps the theme could be “perfect vision”?

Artists impression.

PiDrogen has been completely designed using fusion 360. We created this render for the programme submission.

We are really pleased with how it looks so wanted to share it with you. At the moment it is not sporting PiDrogen team colours but we don’t want to give too much away at this stage!

Hello again

Things have been quiet on the blog front from team PiDrogen. So, since we are snowed in, what better opportunity for an update?

Well the blog has been quiet because we’ve been coding just as fast as we can. 😀

We’ve developed a peripheral controller based on an Arduino Due. Here’s the breadboard version:

The Due connects to the servos, the SBUS on the radio receiver and to some I2C equipped sensors. It then connects to the Pi via a USB port. The Due updates the Pi several times a second and takes instructions from the Pi to set servo positions etc. Jay, who has recently been press ganged into the team, is busy building a strip board interface to replace the breadboard rat’s nest that you see here.

In addition to this, chief coder Dad has been writing the Pi code. It’s written in Python which he’s new to; so there have been times of slow progress. It basically works (although it’s hard to use unless you attach a keyboard; that’s gonna need work!). Here’s a picture of the app running in calibrate mode:

The image is the view from the Pi camera with the alien outlined in pink by open CV, all at 20 frames per second; pretty impressive for such a small device!

Next for us is to rebuild the chassis. The electronics are turning out to be larger than expected and things are getting a little tight in PiDrogen. Tight fitting electronics and LiPo batteries doesn’t sound like a good combination. 🤔

We flyin!

We’ve made a lot of progress today:

  • We’ve designed a new and (hopefully) improved back axle component, cut it on the Exeter Fab Lab laser cutter and fitted it.  So we now have a fully functional PiDrogen1.
  • Then we paired the radio control transmitter we borrowed from a friend to PiDrogen2.  So now we can drive both robots simultaneously.  This is going to be ideal for tomorrow’s marble obstacle course at The House of Marbles.
  • Then Phil got his Python 3 install working on his Mac.  Using this he wrote his first Python GUI using tkinter. (Well, when we say “wrote” we really mean “copied off the Tinterweb”).
  • Then that same Python app shockingly worked on our RPi via it’s touch screen.  The amount of excitement this caused in Phil seems to suggest that his Geekosity has reached new heights.
  • During all this we managed to blog our exploits with the back axle.
    …Juliet did her first ever head stand at the gym!

Like I said, “We Flyin'”.

So there’s good news and bad news…

The good news is that Nathy has been doing some driving practice in preparation for tomorrow’s “marble test” at the House of Marbles.

The bad news is that PiDrogen1 has suffered a structural failure:

The back axle, which is made from 3mm acrylic, has cracked. It is the first victim of Nathy’s enthusiastic driving style. Still, that’s what testing is all about… Right?

Luckily for us, Exeter Fab Lab is open late on a Thursday night. So here is the new, simplified, surely stronger replacement part:

All we need to do now is rebuild ready for tomorrow.