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 Dierential GPS, Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser Rangender, 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!