Minutes from the Mar. '99 CRS meeting:

Total attendance: 24

The meeting commenced at 1pm by viewing a video that Jake brought in on the subject of precision tools put out by the Starrett Co. Everything you wanted to know about micrometers but were afraid to ask.

Next, we had introductions by Jake followed by the passing around of the master e-mail list for updates and additions.

Jake brought out his stash of robot related literature that everybody was welcome to take.

Jake then spoke about the Motorola Design Contest ($45,000 in prize money). Your project entry has to be built around the new 68HC908GPXX family of flash-based microcontrollers. The contest involves mailing a copy of your code, photo, and schematics to Motorola for consideration. Deadline for entry is June 1, 1999. See Jake for a flyer or visit www.circuitcellar.com.

Jake next spoke about the upcoming Trinity Fire Fighting Robot Contest (April 17-18). The general "what is going to happen" on the weekend was discussed. Then Jake asked if anyone was interested in volunteering to help run the event. Contact Jake if you are interested.

The club tee shirts were brought out for sale. We have L & XL left, and the price is $15. Again, talk to Jake if you wish to purchase one.

Next Jake opened the floor to anyone wanting to show off their latest creations.

Kevin demo'ed two projects. First was a hexapod walker using this "robotics computer brain thing" from Mondo-tronics. We discovered that the brain was a motor controller that could memorize motions (fwd, bwd, lt, etc) and duration - then play back these preprogrammed steps upon command. The walker worked great. Next Kevin demo'ed a new and improved anamatronic monkey. It had a steel wire frame, a servo for its arm, a motor for the frame, and utilized the same controller as the walker. Watch out King Kong!

Ron K. showed us his IR proximity detector built around the Sharp GP1U5x. For the Trinity contest, Ron needed a solution for the 40khz noise in the overhead fluorescent lighting - and according to the scope that he had hooked up, all the filtering he added to the detector certainly works. See Ron's link on the CRS Tech forum for a schematic. Ron next showed the group a BSC 2 clone he bought from Peter H Anderson. His "Do it yourself Basic Stamp II" kit sells for $27 - a great price. They can be purchased from Mr. Anderson by a visit to his web site at www.phanderson.com. As a demo, Ron wrote the popular blinking LED program.

Well folks, you saw it in a video a few months ago, now you got a chance to see it in person. Mike brought in his "butler" robot. Standing about 5' tall, sporting arms hacked from a child's toy, a "face" with servo controlled eyes and mouth(hacked from a "talking" Xmas tree), dual motor drive, voice output, and much more this creation we were told was 1 year in the making. Mike ran a demo program for us and mentioned that he wants to bring it to the Trinity contest in April and let it run around there and greet the folks.

Next Mike and Jim's line tracing robots squared off for a little friendly competition. Mike's entry sported Mondo-tronics Bulldozer base, a Basic Stamp II for a brain and 2 IR emmitter/detector pairs fed to LM339 op amps to see the line (1.5" masking tape on the floor). Jim's entry was built around two modified R/C servos attached to a piece of perf board. For a brain it used a Scott Edwards Counterfeit Basic Stamp I and the same IR detectors as Mike used. It is a fuzzy exactly who won but Mike's robot performed a bit better on the curves. Both robots had a good time and said that they would come back for another round at a future meeting.

Scott discussed his recent Science Fair wins (focusing on the "Milk Crate Monster"). He also demo'ed a new gripper with a 400:1 gear reduction run from a cordless drill.

Marc Warren & Max-DV were up next. Max now has a 6803 for a brain. Marc's talk centered around Max's LM629 PID motion controller chips. Using a scope he was able to show us how the various inputs interacted to keep the motors turning at the same speed. For those who missed the meeting, that is a VERY simplistic explanation. Ask Marc for more details - the LM629 looks like a neat chip.

Next Bill & Chris discussed the changes they have made to Merlin, their Fire Fighting robot. Included were battery changes, nickel plating, and a few other points I couldn't remember. The duo then put Merlin thru a box test demo for the group - fast and smooth - Merlin looks like a winner.

Finally, Gary demo'ed his Java based robot simulator dubbed "Rossum's Playhouse". Gary indicated that the client side could be written in various languages then once the code proves itself on the simulator it could be dumped into the robot hopefully already debugged. Gary is looking for collaborators in helping develop smart clients and help with the simulator. Again this blurb here doesn't do justice to Gary's effort. If you are interested, talk to Gary at the next meeting - he had a nice FAQ that he gave out following the talk.

The meeting adjourned around 4:10pm.