Rutgers IEEE Goes to the NY Maker Faire – Hack-A-Day

We were featured on Hack-A-Day at our most recent trip to the maker faire in NY Below is the post:

A few guys from Rutgers showed up at Maker Faire with Navi, their vehicle for the 2012 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. Powered by two huge lead acid batteries, Navi features enough high-end hardware to hopefully make it through or around just about any terrain.

Loaded up with a laser range finder, a stereo camera setup, compass, GPS receiver, and a pair of motors capable of pulling 40A, Navi has the all the hardware sensors required to make it around a track with no human intervention. Everything is controlled by a small netbook underneath the control panel, itself loaded up with enough switches and an 8×32 LED matrix to be utterly incomprehensible.

In the videos after the break, the guys from Rutgers show off the systems that went into Navi. There’s also a video showing off Navi’s suspension, an impressive custom-built wishbone setup that will hopefully keep Navi on an even keel throughout the competition.

Also of note: A PDF design report for Navi and Navi’s own blog.

Rutgers goes to IGVC

Rutgers IGVC Team

The Team

We spent the majority of the year preparing for this event. The machining was done from scratch with the use of the Industrial Engineering departments CNC Mill, we also fabricated custom pcb’s and placed them on the robot as well. In total the robot had a custom suspension, custom chassis, custom built i7 computer, Novatel ProPack-V3 Di erential GPS,  Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser Range nder, 5 Sony Playstation Cameras, and a Sparkfun 9-DoF IMU.

Everything seemed to be fine with the robot in NJ however, when we arrived at the tent in Michigan things started to get a little weird. We never actually had time to fully test the robot with all of the software and components integrated into one piece so when we go to the competition we never expected we would have the kind of problems that we encountered.

In the original design for the robot we didn’t actually have a large shaft sticking out from the center of the robot, this design modification came from the fact that our gps antenna just so happened to be right above our computers power supply. The interesting thing about power supply’s is that they use large inductors to store energy, however even though that might be great for the computer, the magnetic field generated by this effect was not good for the gps antenna and basically blocked the antenna from receiving any signal at all. Bottom line we fixed the problem.

Our next biggest problem came about from our Sparkfun IMU, basically an IMU incorporates an accelerometer and a magnetometer / compass  all in one package. Although it seemed very nice online and even seemed to work well at Rutgers, ultimately it failed us at competition due to large amounts of interference. Next year we plan to have a much better compass.

It’s really hard to express how much time and effort goes into competing in an event such as this. Although we gave it our best shot if only we had one more day we would have been able to qualify.

 

I learned a lot in Michigan, probably more so than I have with my two years so far at Rutgers. I met people from across the country and even places across the world all because robotics brings large groups of people together all with similar interests. I look forward to going back next year!

 

Google Panel @ Rutgers

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Google came to Rutgers tonight to discuss technology and good business sense.

The most surprising thing about the panelist is that only one of them is an actual google engineer. The others actually work in the sales department, the student ambassador program, and biotechnology.

A lot of good questions are being asked, but the biggest question that still remains is, when am I getting a cr-48.

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Digital Logic: 4-bit Binary Adder

A 4-bit Binary Adder is actually quite interesting when you get down to how it really works. Before the carry look ahead adder was created a ripple adder would be used to make simple binary calculations. However, this was inefficeint in that a ripple adder relies on a completed summation in order to continue, this in effect would take much longer to compute and in a fast paced world made very little sense.

Fast forward, a few very intelligent people devised a way to make an adder that would look ahead at previous carries and would be able to preform calculations where all of the results could be summed and a correct answer would be outputted all at the same time.

In this lab we were asked to not only add two 4bit binary values but to also subtract, increment and decrement a number using the 4bit adder circuit. I found it to be very simple and was able to complete it within about 30 minutes. It was a cool lab and I definitely recommend to others to try it for themselves.

Protoboard: Gray Code to Binary and Back

Awesome Protoboard work pt. 2.

In Lab we had to design an Encoder and Decoder to switch from binary to gray code. Now, gray code binary is very simple with only needing two XOR Gates from a 74LS86, but to encode binary to gray code takes a little more work.

In order to accomplish this you would need 3 MUX IC chips (Multiplexer – 74LS151). Basically a multiplexer is just a series of possible inputs where depending on the binary input you would in turn receive an appropriate output. It’s really cool and was a lot of fun to make, if you ever come across this chip you should definitely try messing with this project, it’s not that valuable in the sense that this can easily be done by hand, but rather to just get a basic sense of how multiplexers work.

Red LEDs Binary Output / Green LEDs Gray Code Output

LOL Shield – Starting Things Easy

While I was over at the Maker Faire the other week I finally decided to take my arduino work more seriously. With that in mind I bought the simplest most annoying shield ever found across the net. The LOL Shield, lol standing of course for, Lots of LEDs. It was a fun project for a Thursday night. I finished soldering all the connections in about 1.5 hours and it was up and running almost instantly.

I must say this project is not for the feeble handed, it takes a lot of patients to solder 126 LEDs, yes you heard right more LEDs then would be ever necessary for any project, but then again the 8x8x8 LED cube  requires 512.

So what do I do now… Well, since I’m done with this I guess I could start manually programming it to do cool animations, except you cant really do much with 126 pixels. So for now I guess I’ll just leave it with Conway’s game of life running and see the interesting patterns it creates.

One possible idea could be to hook an inferred sensor onto it and measure how often my Betta fish chase each other, since I really have nothing better to do with my time.

A test of the LOL Shields font capabilities can be seen below:

Embedded Systems: The arduino

I first used the arduino last year in IEEE Robotics when we did a line following robot competition. Needless to say it went pretty well considering my small knowledge of C. However, the arduino makes programming a multi controller a piece of cake.

This year, I plan to take the arduino to a whole new level and combine a few of the things I have been learning in class to start building my own creations such as; a LCD Clock, LED Text display, and my biggest project, an 8x8x8 LED cube which can be used to display animations in 3d which will also look really freaking awesome.

Yes I know it will require 8^3 (512) LED’s, but I think it will be a really good learning experience and will also be a great show piece next to the fish tank in my room.

Created by agofi on instuctables.com

It’s actually really simple to make but putting 512 LED’s together will be extremely tedious. Basically you put the positive and negative terminals in a sort of plane that will allow the multi-controller to address each individual LED

IGVC: The Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition

I am helping with the designing, manufacturing, and programming of a robot to survive the great outdoors.  It will navigate obstacle courses, travel to landmarks, and wow judges with the awesome engineering know how used to  design it.  Our mechanical design has already materialized as a flexible system based around 8020 extrusion and water-jet machined aluminum.  Our software system will feature a cluster of laptops running the latest in research robotics software, ROS, and use computer vision to perceive the world.  This is to be our most challenging project yet, but we are making great progress.  We are set to have a driving chassis and testing platform before Thanksgiving.

Anyone who is interested in sponsoring the project can contact me at: elie-at-trickedcomputers.net

For more information on the project click here