Minutes from the March 2004

Connecticut Robotics Society Meeting:


Total attendance: 20+

The meeting started with a viewing of several short movie clips of various topics.  These topics included hovering robots, obstacle avoidance, and MDoF robots.

Every month the CRS hosts a different robotic competition (such as rope climbing and line following), however there are never more than two competitors and usually only Mark W. brings in a robot for the competition.  So this meeting everyone discussed what is wrong with these competitions and whether or not we should continue them.  Jim suggested the idea of using "Challenges" instead of competitions.  These challenges will be based on a single goal, however it isn't required that you bring in a fully working robot each month.  Instead you can bring in an idea, or parts of your robot to the monthly meetings.  That said, the objective for the May meeting would be to come up with an idea for a rope-climber.  You don't have to have a working robot, but if you do, of course bring it in to show!

Jake then told everyone a story about his recent problems with BETA software.  Jake teaches an after-school robotics class using the Chinese fire fighting robots.  Just recently, Jake received an update to the robot's software.  However this software was a BETA version and had several large bugs in it, which he didn't discover until after installing it on several computers.  Jake warns everyone to be very careful when installing any BETA software.

John was up next and he talked about the FIRST robotics competitions.  John, who recently joined a FIRST team, told everyone what he liked and disliked about the FIRST competitions.  He also talked about what FIRST is and what they do.

There was then a general conversation about the recent DARPA robotic race competition.

Our speaker this month was Mark W. talking about the Lego RCX.  In this excellent and very informative speech, Mark talked about the history of the RCX and how it all started.  He also discussed the technical specifications of the RCX including the processor, I/O ports, display, and much more.  Mark then went on to talk about the many options available for programming the Lego RCX including the Lego Mindstorms Graphical Language, NQC (Not Quite C), and Visual Basic just to name a few.

Mark then talked about the many advantages to using the RCX such as its ease of use, along with its disadvantages such as there only being 3 input ports and 3 output ports.  At the end of his speech, Mark showed several example programs for the RCX including a very impressive program that demonstrated how it's possible to have the RCX talk with, and control a PC!  Thank you for this great talk Mark!

Visar came up next with his pneumatic demonstration.  He demonstrated how bus doors opened, and he also explained how he used pneumatics to create logic gates.  Visar then showed an even more impressive demonstration that was able to continually move two pistons without any human intervention.  He then went on to describe the robotic arm that he plans to build.  This arm will use several pneumatic pistons, and will be able to pick up an object and move it around.  Very impressive job!

Next up was Mark and he brought in a small electric generator he built using the stepper motor he received a few months ago.  Mark attached a small drill to the shaft of the motor and wired up the coils in a way so that they generated the most electricity.  He then demonstrated the generator and how it was able to light up a small light bulb.  Very cool!

Ross was our only rope-climbing competitor this month, but even still his robot performed magnificently!  He explained how he built the 'bot and what his previous ideas were.  Very good work Ross!

This then led to a conversation about rope-climbing robots.  Several ideas were tossed around, and Mark W. talked about the rope-climber that he built for last year's competition.

Nathaniel came up next and gave everyone an update on the progress of his fire-fighting robot.  Since the last meeting, he added several Sharp IR sensors giving his robot the ability to follow walls.  Nathaniel then explained how his robot worked and what other parts it has.  Great work!

Another member then showed everyone his Lego forklift robot.  This robot was built for a competition where the objective was to pickup an object and move it to another location.  He explained how his robot works and he also gave a demonstration of its abilities.  Good job!

Les came up next with a demonstration of the Curie Point.  To demonstrate this, Les attached an iron magnet to a pendulum.  He then placed a lit candle next to a stationary magnet.  That way, the iron magnet is attracted to the stationary magnet.  However when the magnets approach each other, the iron is heated by the candle and drops back.  There it cools and starts the process over again.  Very cool!

Next up was Jim talking about his latest robot.  This robot has 6 IR proximity detectors on it that he controls via an OOPic.  Jim explained how he uses these sensors with the OOPic.  He also talked about what he likes and dislikes about the OOPic processor.  He then set the robot down on the floor to demonstrate its ability to avoid any obstacles that are in the way.  Great job!

Sean then talked briefly about his recent visit to the Boston Science Museum.  There he saw a demonstration of several mini robots that were able to work with each other to accomplish various tasks.  Sean also announced that he made several logos for the club.  He'll send these to Jake to look at.  Thanks Sean!


The meeting adjourned around 4:00pm