How you can help
We are a diverse group of passionate students who are driven by imagination and creativity. And we all have one thing in common — We love and enjoy building robots! But in order to do so, we need your help so we can continue to provide this collaborative space.
If you would like to support and help us, please donate using this link: Give to WSU Robotics Club. If the donation is intended for a specific project, please write it under comments. Your donation will be used to buy the parts necessary to build robots. However small the amount is, your donation will have a significant impact to all members of the club. Also, significant donations will have their logo and name featured in our website's Sponsors page.
For other form of gifts or donations, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The WSU IEEE Student Chapter spearheaded the fruition of the 1st Annual Hardware Hackathon that is happening this Saturday, November 14, 2015. This is co-organized together with Robotics Club and Palouse RoboSub Club.
We want to thank the generosity of following sponsors: Digilent Inc, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture and School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
By: Marcus Blaisdell
During the spring semester of 2015, two architecture professors, Saleh Kalantari and Ebrahim Poustanchi came to the Robotics Club to ask for help in creating an interactive art project they called “Robobble“.
This project was described as a changeable, amorphous blob that could be controlled by a cell phone app.
I, Marcus Blaisdell, together with Austin Bonnes and Tim Pizzino all volunteered to help.
The team started meeting and discussing what was required to create this project. The architects first envisioned one hundred, a meter long, telescoping rods that would be arranged in a sphere and control the shape of the piece. We investigated our options of what could actually extend and retract. Some of the ideas considered were hydraulic extenders and linear actuators.
The team decided on linear actuators. Austin located several options online and the team considered them and decided to order two different versions for evaluation. The first actuator to arrive was notably heavy but performed well. The speed was pretty slow for what the architects wanted and they asked for other ideas but no one had any.
For control, Arduino Mega seemed the obvious choice. It has 54 digital I/O pins and when the size of the linear actuators was taken into consideration, the overall piece was reduced to only twenty actuators arranged in a duo-decagon. Each actuator would require two I/O pins to control the bidirectional movement, which the Mega can handle.
In terms of wireless communication and control, bluetooth technology seemed to be the best option since all modern smartphones have it natively.
To power the actuators with the Arduino, we would need some type of motor controller. The architects wanted to keep the entire project under $3,000 and the linear actuators were priced at $140/ea so most of our budget was taken right there. I consulted with an electrical engineer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Andrew Gulbrandsen, who suggested we use transistors in an H-Bridge configuration. This was investigated and the cost seemed very reasonable, at approximately $4 per motor. I proceeded in creating a parts list, which were then ordered.
When the new linear actuators arrived and were tested, they were all found to be defective. They would wobble terribly. It appeared that they were not perpendicular in their bases and would rotate in a circle that was quite pronounced at the end of the arm. The pieces were returned and as we were at the end of the semester, the project was put on hold.
As the Fall 2015 semester began, the project was started again and new actuators were ordered. Once they arrived, I attempted to construct the H-Bridge controllers but found that the incorrect transistors were ordered and they were too underpowered for this application. We needed them to fully turn on with the 5V output from the Arduino but they required 12V to fully turn on. Marcus then consulted with two electrical engineers from SEL, Andrew Gulbrandsen and Doug Bruns, as well as EE students, Matt Foreman of the Robotics Club, and Ryan Summers of the RoboSub Club. Everyone agreed that the transistors would not be able to handle this task. We were left with the option of either trying to order more transistors and continue with the H-Bridge or order regular motor controllers. I found some motor controllers, DROK L298N, that could handle two 12V motors per and were only $8.20/ea. Ten of them were ordered and tested, which we have found to function perfectly.
The original power supply for the project was a laptop power supply that worked very well for testing a single linear actuator. Due to a communications error, seven additional laptop power supplies were ordered with the expectation that they would be used in combination to power twenty motors. This proved to be unreliable. The power supplies were not able to provide enough current and so two Robotics Club members, Connor Cole and Matt Foreman, suggested a PC power supply. I contacted VGH and found that they had a 900W in stock that was capable of 40A at 12V. This was purchased and hooked up and had more than enough power for all twenty motors simultaneously.
For the cell phone app, nobody had any experience or knowledge of how to build one. However, Matt Foreman suggested that we should try using the MIT App Inventor. This was found to be very easy to use and was utilized to create the app.
The architects handled the construction of the physical piece and I did the wiring and programming. The first version of the firmware and phone app was trying to use a slider bar to set the position of each actuator and since the actuators have no position sensing or any sensors at all, this was being approximated with timing. In the end, this proved far too difficult and so it was modified to be simply out, stop, or in with the operator deciding when to stop each motor at the position they desired. This worked much better. Gabriel de la Cruz provided feedback on the Arduino code suggesting to use arrays to handle all of the variables instead of assigning each individually. His suggestion reduced the overall size of the Arduino file by almost 30%!
This project required a lot of help from a lot of people and was truly a group effort with contributions from several members of the Robotics Club, RoboSub Club and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Special thanks go to Ace Hardware for their help with advice and equipment to wire the project together.
The Robotics Club was also mentioned in the WSU News Article.
I agreed in teaching a tutorial on vision and image processing as I’ve seen it as a useful skill to have these days which is not limited to robotics. With the increasing sales in smartphone and other mobile devices, we are generating so much data that includes pictures and videos. This entails that we will need more skilled programmers to process these types of data. Although this is not the goal for this tutorial, yet this is just one of the many ways having this skill in a student’s arsenal can be beneficial.
Real-time vision processing is a huge part of most robotics system that aims for full or semi-autonomy — The club have seen the need to introduce to it’s members the very basic concept behind real-time video processing.
In an autonomous robot, it needs to perceive its environment through sensors in order to make logical decisions on how to act in the world. One important sensor in a robot is using a camera. There are different types of high-end camera that would be great for robots like a stereo camera, but for the purpose of introducing the basics, we are just using a simple cheap webcam or the built-in cameras in our laptops.
The tutorial was scheduled for 3 consecutive robotics club meeting. The first tutorial included a discussion on the basics of image processing where it was discussed how videos can be broken down into a sequence of frames or images. Where images can be broken down into pixels and where each pixels can be broken down into a single scalar value or a tuple of 3 scalar values depending on the colorspace of the image. Members learned how to load an image, change the color of a region of pixels, cropping, displaying an image on a window and saving the image back into a file.
All files and slides used during the tutorial are available here. The images used during the tutorial are not owned by the club so we highly recommend you use your own images or do not use them other than for the purpose of practicing.
I learned these steps from different articles and codes from the web. If you want to learn what other things you can do with OpenCV. Checkout these websites:
- http://docs.opencv.org/2.4/index.html (2.4 Documentation)
- http://docs.opencv.org/3.0-beta/index.html (3.0 Documentation)
By: Bryce Johnson
As of now, the prosthetic hand is in a state of partial completion. All of the 3D printed parts are made and the majority of the components needed have been obtained. The fingers of the hand have been assembled and will be ready to attach to the motors once they have been tested for functionality. There are three main aspects of the project that the group is currently working on: construction of the prototype hand, EEG sensor research, and hand control systems. The group aims to have the hand built by the end of October. For the rest of the semester the plan is to add functionality to the hand by having it mimic a human hand’s motion along with continued research relating to EEG sensors and control of the hand using an EEG sensor as the input. This prosthetic hand is an exciting way for students to work on a challenging interdisciplinary project having a real world impact. New team members are always welcome. Our Facebook group, WSU Robotics Medical Device Team, announces our meeting times and has additional information about our project.
The club have seen the importance of inviting someone from the industry to talk about resume from their perspective. Also, with members who are vastly engineering or computer science students, a lot of the officers have met questions from fellow students on what they should put down as their technical skills or how one should cite the programming languages they know and how they should rate each. Having a speaker from the industry will not only help us answer these questions but will also be able to provide reasons to why they want to see them on the resume. The industry’s perspective is most valuable as they are the one who will be perusing the student’s submitted resumes and will make the decision based on the resume to whether you are getting to the next step of the hiring process.
Robotics Club, through its vice-president, Marcus Blaisdell, a CS student who is also doing internship at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), invited a speaker from SEL to give the members of the club a talk about resume.
Curt Geertgens, a SEL Development Support Manager, gave a talk on “The Perfect Resume: for Engineering Students.” The speaker was very pleased and even gave a complement for having a huge attendance, with over 50+ students during the talk. Members were engaged throughout the talk and had lots of questions during and after the talk.
Also present in the talk where Dr. Swensen and Dr. Janeth who helped examine the resumes brought by some members.
Click here to download slides of the talk.
Robotics Club hold its first meeting of the Fall on September 3rd at the Intelligent Robot Learning Laboratory (IRL Lab). It was a well-attended meeting with over 60 students. The meeting was hosted by the club’s president, Austin Bonnes, who is a Mechanical Engineering student. The rest of the club officers were also present in the meeting. The meeting started with an opening from the president, who talked about what the club is about, what it offers, and what it expects from its members. Kayl Coulston, a CS student and the club’s Community Outreach officer shortly talked about the club’s past community outreach programs and the plans for this year. Gabriel de la Cruz, a CS graduate student then talked about the tutorials the club are planning to do this semester.
The club also introduce the newest addition to its advisory board, our club’s new co-adviser Dr. John Swensen, who is a new professor at the ME Department. Also present is Dr. Kshitij Jerath, who is also a new professor in the ME Department who will help mentor the club.
The president went on to talked about the different projects planned this year which includes: Mars Rover, Robotic Arm, Battlebot, Medical Robot, and Beer Pong Robot. The team leaders for each project were given the opportunity to pitch to the club’s new members about their respective project and why they should join their team. New members were then given the opportunity to go around to meet with each team project to allow them to select and join a project(s) they were interested in.
The club would like to thank the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for providing beverages for the event.
Robotics Club has been very active in its effort to recruit new members to join the club this Fall semester. At the same time, as part of our mission, we are also making an effort to increase awareness about robotics in the WSU community. Listed below are the different events the club participated at:
- Valley Road Block Party
- All Campus Picnic
- CougSync Connect Campus and Community Involvement Fair
- Ice Cream Social
- EECS Student Club Night
Also throughout the first and second week of classes, officers have selected a few number of EECS and ME classes in which they will speak about the club.