Commentary by S.D. Kaehler
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12/16/17: This month's meeting was fun and well attended with about 45 people showing up to talk about and build robots instead of fight the crowds at the shopping malls. Seems like an easy choice to me. The meeting started pretty close to 10AM which is good because it means I'm finally getting into a routine at the Fieldhouse. The video I originally thought I'd present was a little graphic and intense for some of the younger members of the audience so I played a different video about the robots that are being used to clean up the mess at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. These are video- and sensor-equipped telepresence robots that enter dangerous places to see what's there and help identify the focus of the cleanup efforts to move things forward. Contrary to popular belief, this disaster is far from over with areas of the reactor still so "hot" with radiation that even robots are damaged when they get too close. Despite all the hassles, the cleanup slowly continues and will likely cost a staggering amount of money over many more years before it's finally done (if it ever actually will be).
I have been encouraging everyone at the meetings to build robots. This month was no exception. Since I started posting details about mine on the SRS Weblog, I have been a lot more motivated to work on it and have made great progress. I hope to have Omicron moving around (or doing something) by the next meeting. Do jump into this exciting hobby. It's hard work but great fun and very rewarding when you succeed. I believe we are gaining robot-building momentum in the club as more people purchase and build the Boe-bot Kit and I hope attendance increases thanks to the contests between Robothons. In early 2018 we'll start offering the BlocklyProp-programmable Activitybot kit along with the Ardiuno Boe-bot kit for builders looking for the greater challenge of a more sophisticated robot controller. We will offer and support both kits at the regular monthly workshops. The Useful Links page is a recent addition I hope you'll check out and help make useful to everyone. My thought was that it would be handy to have a single place to go to where helpful robotics resources are collected so I have assembled this list.
Rob, Terry, Randy, James, Scott, and I shared during the Round-the-Room. Visit our Facebook page and check out this month's meeting event for pictures!
- Rob showed off his cool four-wheel independently streerable cellphone controllable robot. He demoed it after the meeting too.
- Terry showed us his latest "Dollar Store" find, a three-channel remote for Christmas lights (or whatever) for $15.
- Randy shared an amusing Youtube video about a machine called "Floppotron", that makes music using old floppy and hard drive components. There is a sizable collection of video songs by this amazing machine that come up along with this video.
- James recently purchased a cool little two-wheel balancing robot kit from Pololu called the Balboa. He hasn't built it yet but Carol just happened to have one that was put together and working so we actually got to see how it balance. This robot has a very robust control algorithm in it and can be tweaked for different behaviors as sensors are added. This type of robot was the primary focus of her presentation. More on that below.
- Scott shared some new 3D printed parts he's been playing with where he printed completely assembled pivot joints and was able to form flexible, fully assembled shape-shifting widgets. I'm sure he'll have more to show at February's 3D Printer meeting.
- Steve showed the latest progress on his robot Omicron. He briefly talked through some details, what he's been working on lately, and what he hopes it will eventually do. You can find the technical details about Omicron on the SRS Weblog.
Carol Hazlett presented on PID controllers and what she's learned about them and how they work. She used several LEGO Mindstorms two-wheeled balancing robots (Google Search) and a Parallax robot programmed with BlocklyProp where she tweaked the P, I, and D coefficients then uploaded the changes to the robot to see what would happen. All in all it was a fun presentation. I'm not sure how much we learned but we had lots of fun anyway. She concluded with a Youtube video of her robotic Christmas tree using her Parallax Arlo platform. Here's a PID tutorial for your perusal.
A good crowd of folks, probably 20-25 hung around for the afternoon Workshop including a couple families with kids. This is wonderful to see and a great opportunity to spend time together with your family and other SRS members doing something really cool and be close to help if you need it. We also sold five more Boe-bot Kits, all of which were opened and started by eager robot builders. More Boe-bots will be ordered plus some Activitybots. Lots of fun was had by all. I hope more of you will come in future months and bring your robot(s) to work on and show off. The next Special Contest Day will follow the May meeting so get busy. I hope to see lots of you at next month's meeting!
If you have comments or opinions on this writing, please email me at SeattleRoboticsSociety (a) Gmail.com.
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