Our own desktop factory

When you annually participate in a robotics competition which every year has a new set of rules, you need a lot of new parts each season. Often, the parts are essentially different so mechanical engineers need to pass the whole process starting with an idea, over a prototype to a functional, working mechanism. The first time we competed at the Eurobot competition most of the mechanisms were made without a prototype version. At the time, our team had only one mechanical engineer so everything that satisfied a minimal functionality was accepted because there were piles of unfinished work. Also, the manufacturing was not always affordable.

Last year we decided to make all the parts in a 3D printing technology using ABS plastic. We had a Makerbot Replicator 2X available, a larger team of mechanical engineers and a motto: “Guys, every idea goes to printing so we can try it out asap”. This created a fair amount of time that could be used for idea development which would instead have been used for purchasing scotch tape, cutting some planks, paintworks, etc… Literally, we had our own factory which produced everything our team thought of. Around three months after the first use of the printer, we had two of our robots autonomously moving across the playing field.

Aside from the fast road from an idea to a functional part, the printing technology made the whole process a lot more fun. The quality of the printed parts was high enough that we decided to print almost all of the mechanisms, even the housing in the final phase, using ABS plastic.

The rules for the new competition season are out and we are looking forward to new challenges and problems to be solved, completely relaxed, because we have a Makerbot Replicator 2X which finishes a great amount of work for our team. This year we are expecting an early start and with that, more implemented ideas from our mechanics. 🙂

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Competition outcome

It’s been a while since we wrote you anything, sorry for that. All of us postponed much stuff for after the competition so at some point we didn’t have time for anything 🙂

For those of you who came to the competition you saw what happened, for the rest of you, here’s the outcome.
During the first and the fifth round, our big robot worked very good. The little guy unfortunately tipped over and fell in front of the stairs both times. But even so, they beat the other team both times 🙂
However, during the second through fourth round, something odd happened. At the beginning of the round, the big robot wouldn’t start at all. 😦 We tested everything in-between the rounds and everything worked perfectly for tens of times. We’re still not sure what happened, but we’ll definitely work to find out. All in all, because the robots earn points and not victories, and we got almost zero points during the three rounds, we wound up 7th place out of 13.

We’re not happy with the place on the board but once we find out what happened, we’ll be sure that we now have a robust and controllable wheel platform along with a good software, so next year we’ll have more time for mechanism development and testing 🙂

Once again, thanks everyone for their large support!

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Milestone 1 almost done!

One step at a time we are getting closer and closer to our first milestone!

Help is coming from all around, people are being extremely kind and generous. With their help, encoder mounts are completed and our robot is almost ready for it’s first steps 🙂

Lagerton provided us with some high quality bearings while 3D-caddit was kind enough to donate us with the material for MakerBot printer. Politehnika (a school where two of our teammates currently go to and where another one used to go) allowed us to use their machines for mechanical production as well as the necessary material. All of them were very quick to respond and pleasant to communicate with, so on this occasion we’d like to thank them a lot for everything!

It’s a bit hard to share our progress with the software, so we’ll just share the photos of the encoder mounts we made, and hopefully in several days you’ll be able to check back for a video of our first run.

We hope you like it!

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MikroE About Us

A small robot explored the surface of our dining hall today. While the two-wheeler rolled around, we had a chat with the team of students that designed and constructed it for the purposes of the national Eurobot competition.

The constructors, Stefan, Gavrilo, Damjan and another Stefan (along with Lazar, Milos, Vlada and Rade who couldn’t make it to our meeting) are members of Petnica’s applied physics and electronics lab. Since we made acommitment to support the lab, we supplied the team with important components and compiler licenses. Among others, their Eurobot competition robot has two proximity clicks and two STM MINI boards inside of it, and the software that governs it was written mostly in mikroC.

Gavrilo from the team explains how the robot competition works:

“The robots must be completely autonomous, no remote controls allowed. Two robots at a time face off each other in a match. The two robots run through a course performing a set of tasks for points: moving around objects from point A to point B, picking mock fruits while avoiding poisonous ones based on colors, and so on. Many participating robots duel each other in this way, and at the end of the tournament the winning robot is determined by the total sum of accumulated points from all the matches.”

Competitions like these drive innovation and help bring about a new generation of engineers who will make tomorrows’ robots smarter. Eventually, Gavrilo, Damjan, Stefan and Stefan will move on from constructing small competition robots to making their bigger cousins that assemble cars or explore Mars.

For starters though, the team hopes to win first place at next years’ national Eurobot, so they could qualify for the final international tournament in Europe (This years’ competition was their Eurobot debut). So what did they learn from this years’ experience that will help them improve for 2015?

Stefan said that after many sleepless nights spent preparing for the competition, they learned much and they’re a better team now. Their biggest challenge was to successfully combine all the different functionalities into a single robot that functions smoothly. Because every team member has his own field of expertize, it’s hard to bring all these divergent skills together to focus them on a single goal. But at the end, they all benefit from it.

We agree with that. Diversity breeds innovation. That’s why MikroElektronika supports so many architectures and programming languages, gathering a variety of developers with different approaches and outlooks on Libstock.

Yours sincerely,
MikroElektronika