Senior Design Level 1 Complete

Hey everyone,

The semester is finally over. I’ve been to hell and back. I have touched the face of god and lived to tell the tale. I’ve consumed enough caffeine to kill a Rhinoceros. What you can gather is I’ve worked to exhaustion and then kept working. It’s been a wild ride and I’m still recovering.

When I last left you guys we were just starting the semester and had lots of work to go. Well, we have compiled our final paper of the semester and gave our final presentation. I thought I’d upload them for anyone to check out. They are hefty, and lousy with technical jargon, but anyone brave enough is welcome to sift through the documents. Due to us being split into two groups (in name only), some information is missing in ours. I am trying to acquire the other groups documents to put up. (This has been changed to include all documents)

We are planning on building the base over this break and hopefully have a working, moving robot before the next semester starts up. Just keep your internet web browser pointed here for updates.

Here is the final design documents of the semester.

Receiver Google Doc Link

QB Google Doc Link

Here is the final presentations minus videos.

Receiver Presentation Google Doc Link

QB Presentation Google Doc Link

Free Time? What’s a Free Time? or Senior Design

Oh hey. Here, let me clear out these cob webs. It sure has been a while hasn’t it? I sure like your new sweater. It’s a bit chilly out there isn’t it.? Snow in November! Crazy, right? Wow! Really?! That is great to hear! Oh, my life? How kind of you to ask. Well let me tell you!

I finally started senior design for my engineering degree. Yes, that means I will be graduating soon! Finally! Amazing! Fin-mazing! One the other hand, this also means I have almost no free time. The few moments I do manage to carve out for free time, I am usually rendered useless due to the combination of work, school, and improv. These blips are usually spent watching Murphy Brown because if there is one thing I can do during my downtime it is watch old, irrelevant sitcoms (Cheers and Fraiser, check!).

It sounds like I am complaining, but that’s only is because I am. This is not all without an upside. The project I selected/was chosen for is engaging, challenging, and combines just about everything I’ve learned in school and then some.

We are trying to assemble a team for the Robotic Football competition put on by The University of Notre Dame. Basically, mobile robots that play a modified version of Football. Here is a sample video:

We have six members in total split between two groups of three. Notre Dame has quite a lot of people who participate in the designing, building, testing, and programming of these robots so we are at a slight disadvantage. One group is focusing on the quarterback, and the other on the receiver. Due to the sheer size of the project we are focusing on those two positions in particular and if time and funding allows we will expand from there. The ultimate goal is to compete with a full team in April.

Surprisingly, the hardest part now is location tracking, i.e., how far are the robots traveling, and where are they? There are many different methods: infrared, ultrasonic trilateration, odometery, acceleration, gyroscopic, and every combination in between. All methods have inherent flaws and many require prohibitively expensive equipment. The problem is that location tracking absolutely crucial to performing reliable passes between the QB and the receiver. As of this writing we are going with odometery using rotary encoders and using some advanced mathematic techniques in junction with initial calibration to hopefully yield a reliable, cost-effective solution to location tracking.

We have accomplished much as a group though and have a little to show for it now. The base has been designed to specification put out by Notre Dame. The parts have also been selected and ordered. Preliminary software tests for communication have been constructed and, well, tested. Since the group is made up of so few we are forced to wear many hats and as of now I have been 3D modeller as well as BeagleBone champion due to my Linux background and the fact that I learned how to program with net code this semester.

Here is a 3D Model of our base with the top lid removed. The parts have been ordered and the construction begins in mid to late December.

Since I have been the person pushing the group to use the BeagleBone Black as the microcontroller instead of the Arduino or Raspberry Pi, I took it upon myself to learn it. I am quite familiar with Linux. I run it on my servers, and try (whenever possible) to use it as my main OS (So I can keep my nerd cred, the primary reason I don’t use it all the time is due to software constraints. Adobe software doesn’t run well on Linux, even in Wine.). Wi-Fi is relatively ubiquitous and parts are cheap. Instead of going with a proprietary system like Xbee which is what most people use because they have Arduino libraries, we chose Wi-Fi. The plan is to use IP (same protocol you use for the Internet) using UDP for speed and if the connection becomes unreliable then use TCP.

A test created showcases the network in working order. The idea is the BeagleBone runs a server, written in Java, and waits for packets. A client, written in Java, running on a Windows machine transmits numbers to the server. The server then lights up four LEDs showing a binary representation of that number. All data is transferred over a networking using UDP/IP. Unfortunately, the Angstrom (BeagleBone Linux distro) repository was down at the time of the recording so the USB Wi-Fi adapter’s drivers and firmware could not be installed. Standard 802.3 Ethernet over Cat 6 was used in its stead.


I know this is all sounds very technical, and that’s because it is. Although this will be compiled into several papers outlining our exact reasoning, I wanted to get it out in my own words and will continue to do that as we go along, time permitting. Hopefully by the next update we will have a real world working robot to showcase, but for now this is what I can provide. I hope you found it fascinating despite the overly technical nomenclature. It’s all-consuming, but it sure is fun. I am really lucky to be doing what I enjoy.

Topic 2: Greyhouse

Topic 2: Take a picture of something you see on a regular basis, and write about it…

I live a dual life, kinda. I live in The Region. That is where I go to school, and live during the week. However, come the weekend, I travel the 70+ miles to my second home, West Lafayette/Lafayette, IN. It’s a strange lifestyle. I don’t have a permanent residence down there and it has forced me into a nomadic lifestyle. I have just about everything I need within my bags and go from place to place.

Some would ask why I do this. Seems expensive and quite a hassle. To an extent this is true, but the pros far outweigh the cons. All my friends (like the one’s who are doing this very blog project with me) are located in Lafayette. My girlfriend is there. My improv group is there. The entirety of my social life is in Lafayette. Strange as it might be, this is how it is.

Having no place to call my own is kind of difficult. Especially when you have a lot of work to be done for school (engineering is quite a lot of work) and said improv group. That is where Greyhouse enters the mix.

Greyhouse is a local coffee shop located in the Chauncey Village area of West Lafayette. It’s hard to express how much of a sanctuary it has been for me. I have previously written about my troubles with school and to be perfectly honest, the redemption portion of that is mainly situated at Greyhouse. In the process of getting myself back on track I needed a place to focus. A place with great atmosphere and great coffee. Greyhouse has and does fulfill those requirements and then some. It always has diligent students, hard at work (I count myself among these), as well as people milling around just hanging out and having a good time. This combination just puts me into the zone.

I have spent countless hours and drank countless gallons of coffee at Greyhouse and I attribute a lot of my success to Greyhouse for providing me a place to focus and get work done. I am actually writing this entry from a leather chair in Greyhouse after putting in a good 3-4 hours of work. This place is my home and I would have a hard time without it.

If you ever find yourself in West Lafayette, pay yourself a visit to Greyhouse. It is amazing.

*Since I brought up what has made me successful  I want to give a special thanks to all my friends. Among them I want to single out Tim and Mary Franklin. I have stayed a their house countless times and I would not be able to have this portion of my life without them. Thank you guys, truly.