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Seattle Robotics Society meeting held on Saturday, August 18, 2001 from 10:00A-12:00P
at Renton Technical College
Compiled by Steve Kaehler

The meeting started at promptly at 10:00 with a welcome and introduction by SRS president Doug Kelley (doug.kelley@alaskaair.com).   Attendance started at about 53 and reached 72 by 10:30.  Doug explained the meeting format: Intro and welcome, club business, show-n-tell, a presentation, informal one-on-one chats afterward, and lunch at a local restaurant.  Nine new folks were present.  Welcome!

Pete Miles, newly elected as event coordinator, Pete talked about upcoming contests and preparations being made for them.  The Seattle Center Centerhouse has been reserved for Robothon 2002 on Saturday May 4.  The upstairs conference room will be available once again for the Friday evening "hack" session and then all day Saturday for whatever the club chooses to do with it.  Robothon 2002 will host the first regional BotBall (http://www.botball.org) competition for the PNW.  Randy Sargent of the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (http://www.kipr.org/) can be contacted for information about BotBall at rsargent@kipr.org

The contest events will include Japanese sumo classes, line maze (12'x12', no loops), BotBall, and floor exercises but no grand maze.  Micromouse was suggested but may run as a floor exercise unless enough folks build robots for have a contest.  Pete is in the process of revamping the Robothon webpage (http://www.seattlerobotics.org/robothon/) so be sure to keep an eye on it over the next few months.  He is also looking for all kinds on help on the planning committee to handle the many behind-the-scenes details that go into making the Robothons such great events.  If you would like to help, contact him at petem@ormondllc.com.

Other events coming up:
* Sep 29 - Northwest Robot Sumo Contest (http://www.seattlerobotics.org/nwrs/index.html), sponsored by Bill Harrison of Sine Robotics.
* Oct 20 - Line Maze practice at regular meeting at RTC
* Jan 13 - Rustycon, robot sumo demo by Bill Harrison
* Feb 16 - New contest, details forthcoming
* Mar 16 - Annual Robot Fire-Fighting contest, at RTC

Doug Kelley - Unfortunately, the club meeting next month will be held in the Culinary Room as it was earlier this year.  This room is a bit cramped for a group our size, but the regular conference room will be needed and is normally provided to us by the college at no charge.  This meeting location will be somewhat cramped so don't bring too much stuff to show.  Also, arrive early if you want a seat.  There will be another presentation, this time by Dr. Kirsten Jaax who will tell us about "muscle spindle actuators".  Next month will be elections for the positions of secretary and vice president.  After the SRS meeting, the LEGO Mindstorms SIG (S.M.A.R.T., http://news.lugnet.com/org/us/smart/) led by Gus Jansson will have their meeting in the Culinary room starting at 1:00 PM.   Contact him at GJansson@aol.com if you have questions.

For those interested in LEGO Mindstorms robots, the Third RCX Challenge is coming up in October at the Pacific Science Center.  See http://www.workshop3d.com/rcx/index.htm for more information.  The contests start at 1:00PM and are held next to the new Boeing 3-D IMAX theater (http://www.workshop3d.com/rcx/schedule.htm)

Ted Griebling.showed the latest developments on his cool little robot, m+m'Bot, an M&M gathering/sorting/shooting robot.  (The picture is from July's meeting and there have been some changes).  It has a color sensor, pager motors for drive, and he made his own circuit board, plus some cool blue LEDs.  It can move a little and actually collect and shoot and M&Ms now.  It is extremely small, being a mere 2" long, 1-1/4" wide, and 1-1/2" tall.  He said he wanted to build a robot that would do something interesting and impressive even to a non-technical person.   The result has been eight months of effort to fabricate m+m'Bot from the ground up.

Here are his comments:

"The idea is to make a bunch of robots to give to friends and family.  This is to be something anyone can appreciate and enjoy. Not just
robot-geeks like us. The m+m'Bot is a holistically designed robot and a long on-going design design project. The time spent so far on each part has been:

Mechanics ~4 months, Electronics ~4 months , Software (just started).

The result is turning out to be one of the cutest robots ever.







Karl Lunt has been contacted by Mike Green of Robot Science & Technology (http://www.robotmag.com/) to write a chapter about robot software for a forthcoming book about building robots.  The book's purpose seems to be to show how to build an autonomous "warrior" type robot, with all aspects detailed in various chapters.  Mike may be looking for others to write chapters on other subjects if anyone is interested.  The book is due out before this Christmas.

Carson Kabel showed the LEGO Mindstorms-based robot he and his friends built for RoboCup Jr. at the IJCAI last week  They came in second place in the search and rescue and dance competitions.  Here's the link to an article on 8/16/2001 in the Olympian about these kids (http://news.theolympian.com/stories/20010816/SouthSound/90092.shtml.)

Ron Nucci.brought in a couple copies of "WINBatch" software.  This program allows the user to emulate keyboard commands to most Windows programs thus allowing multiple off-the-shelf program to be used in concert to accomplish tasks beyond the capability of any one program.  For example, in a robotic application, if one had a video acquisition program and wanted to get the camera image to some video processing program that couldn't get it directly, this software would provide the bridge for accomplishing this.  More information can be found at http://www.windowware.com/winware/winbatch.html.

Ron also mentioned a new product by Acroname called "Brainstem".  Check it out at http://www.acroname.com/brainstem/brainstem.html.
Brian Thomas Robotics, operator of Servocity (http://www.servocity.com), has lots of cool servos and add-ons like pan/tilt platforms.  There will be a new website online soon at http://www.brianthomasrobotics.com (didn't work as of 8/28/01).

John offered some keyboard and other miscellaneous computer cables for grabs.

Gordon Anderson, from Richland, WA, was in Seattle on a business trip and came by to show us an interesting project he's been working on.  In hostage situations, communication with the terrorists is vitally important to resolve the situation.   This has typically been accomplished by having people (S.W.A.T. team members) deliver a wired or cell phone to a location close to the terrorists.  The problem is that this endangers the deliverers.  To address this problem, Gordon helped design a vehicle based on a couple small bicycle frames welded together into a three-wheeled configuration with automotive windshield motors connected to the pedal crankshafts for drive and steering power.  The rear wheels are retained while the frames are merged to a single, steerable front wheel.  The ten-inch tires permit the vehicle to climb over curbs, rocks, branches, and other debris without trouble, delivering a cell phone for negotiator's to communicate.  When equipped with video, audio, and other sensors,   it may be used to enter and check an empty meth lab or crack house before sending people in.  A potential concern mentioned was sparking caused by the drive motors which could ignite a flammable atmosphere in the building, but at least people wouldn't be injured or killed.

Tim Hitchcock is looking for an electrical/electronic engineer to help develop an electronic power management system for a hybrid electric vehicle.  The project involves taking driver and sensor inputs, making decisions about drive modes, and sending commands to the electric motors and gasoline engine in real time.  The vehicle will compete in the Tour de Sol road rally in May 2002.  The position is unpaid and voluntary in collaboration with the Viking 23 student team from the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.  The hours and commute are flexible with an estimated participation of 10-15 hours per month from September 2001 through May 2002.  If you are interested, contact Tim at timothy_hitchcock@yahoo.com or PO Box 11727, Olympia, WA 98508-1727 or (360)-352-1065.  More information can be found at the following links:

Vehicle Research Institute - http://vri.etec.wwu.edu/
Viking 23 hybrid car specs - http://vri.etec.wwu.edu/viking_23.htm
Tour de Sol Homepage - http://www.nesea.org/transportation/index.html

Doug Bell showed us a cool little dual-motor RC car called a "Racing Rat" that looks like a great platform for a small robot.  It has two independently controllable drive motors that make the car move when driving together and steer when driven separately.  He found it at KBToys (http://www.kbkids.com/index.html).   Search the website with "racing rat" to find it.  It comes with rechargeable batteries and a 10-minute charger.

Doug also showed us a couple Metricom Ricochet modems (900 MHz spread spectrum type) he bought recently for $150.  They were originally intended to communicate with a utility pole mounted receiver for direct Internet connection.  He has a pair which if connected to two PC, should allow them to talk to each other wirelessly.   Unfortunately, a second laptop wasn't available at the meeting to verify this.   Also, Metricom has declared bankruptcy and is now out of business.  See http://www.metricom.com/ for details.


A sales presentation by Mikel Carver on Atmel microcontrollers was done from 11:00 to 11:45.  More details can be found on the Atmel website at http://www.atmel.com.  All American (http://www.allamerican.com/) supplies the chips locally and can be contacted for samples and datasheets.  Contact Yoshi Nimi at AA for information.

The SDK500 was recommended as the System Development Kit of choice for evaluating AVR's in your applications.  CD's of the Atmel website were available and a drawing for various giveaways was held with the stipulation that the recipients had to do something with the kits and bring them back in month or two to show.  Details about the chips discussed can be found at http://www.atmel.com/atmel/products/prod23.htm.   Development software can be downloaded from Atmel's website at http://www.atmel.com/atmel/products/prod203.htm.   Feedback forms for the presentation were collected and will be evaluated to improve future presentation.

Several people who have worked with AVR's were asked to share their experience and impressions.

For general information, Larry Barello has a great website about his uses of the AVR processors.  Check it out at http://www.barello.net/.

Gene Elliot will be attending PRIME, a show where people display internal combustion engines of all shapes and sizes.  It happens in Oregon on September 28th.  He wants to start a robot exhibit at the show and would like to take some machines along to show off.  Contact him at gene@harbornet.com if you want more information or have something he could take along.

Terry Laraway shot meeting pictures and brought a bunch of vendor catalogs for giveaway.


Lots of lively small group discussions followed the meeting.  Group lunch at Pegasus Pizza at 4201 NE Sunset Blvd  for anyone who's interested.

Directions to Pegasus Pizza from RTC: Head north (left) on Monroe Ave NE (east side of RTC).  Follow this about a mile to 12th St.  Turn left and go down the hill to the traffic light.   Turn right onto Sunset Blvd. and follow it about 0.8 miles.  Pegasus is on the right (south side of the street).


--Submitted for Tom Dickens by Steve Kaehler.