Firefighting robot update

Posted by Erica on Mar 5, 2012 in Electronics, Making |

The firefighting robot competition is only a few weeks away, and I’ve been working steadily. Because of the time pressure, there hasn’t been much leisure to blog about it! I’ve accomplished the following tasks, and may write about them later. Partial list includes:

  • Set up wireless communication between the Arduino-controlled robot and a PC running the Robot Operating System (ROS), using XBees and the rosserial library.
  • Made a robot descriptor file, and learned how to publish the basic frame and joint transforms to visualize the robot in ROS’s rviz.
  • Created a foamboard maze for testing. I didn’t want a huge maze taking up floor space in my house, and the contest arena is 8′ by 8′. To my surprise the web was useless on this, so I had to design it from scratch. My maze is light, portable, and easily taken apart or reconfigured.  These foam connectors are the key; it took time to track them down.
  • Learned how to use wheel encoders, and debug them properly. Getting it right required using my cool palm-sized oscilloscope. Added debouncing code to improve accuracy.
  • Learned enough about the ROS navigation stack to send fake odometry messages and see the robot move in rviz.
  • Converted the contest arena schematic into an 3D obstacle map for ROS.
  • Wrote the basic differential motor controller for the Arduino to move the wheels, collect odometry information, and correct the velocity based on a PID system. Much of this was built from scraps of code acquired various places online. It is not tested yet.
  • Got a Logitech F310 game controller, installed the ROS joystick driver stack, and  “drove” a simulated robot. This works via ROS velocity commands, identical to what the real robot will need. The joystick stack was not compatible with my version of ROS and it took some hair-pulling to fix. After managing it, I went in and added the details to the official ROS documentation so that others won’t suffer. The kids have enjoyed driving the fake robot around.
  • Figured out a nice system of crimp connectors and matching housing to wire the robot up.
  • Purchased and received the necessary parts for the robot construction, including chassis, wheels, motors, motor brackets, encoders, standoffs, and ultrasonic sensors.

Upcoming tasks include figuring out the full navigation and localization stacks for ROS, which seems rather daunting at the moment. I also need to convert the ultrasonic sonar data into something that ROS can use, it is designed for laser scans or Kinects. With that, I will have a full framework for a robot capable of autonomous navigation.

The only major area not looked at yet in depth is the candle itself. Once in the proper room, we need to detect the candle and put it out. It seems that this will not be too hard, so I am leaving it for the end.

Looking at all this, I can see I will never write about all of it. But for those topics that are not well covered elsewhere online, I will give it a shot.

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1 Comment

  • Julie S says:

    Have you put up the “Help Wanted” notices for miniature firefighters yet? *grin*

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