Lazy summer and a sumo sneak peak

I’m out visiting relatives in Saskatchewan so progress on robots and posts on this blog have suffered a bit. I’m starting to think about the CNRG robot games in November which are coming like a freight train. Any robots that will take a bit of building need to get started ASAP!

Last year I took first place in the minisumo with my 4 wheel sumo called Buttercup. I’m planning on bring it back again to run it basically unchanged (although I might have to build a new front blade… the existing one is pretty banged up). I had planned to have 2 sumos at the event… a 2 wheel version was left behind in the development stage once I realized that I was running out of time last year.

I pulled up the 2D design files this past week and started poking around at it again. I had a real preliminary sketch of it done that I started working from. I think its starting to come together nicely. I moved the blade/base design into Sketchup so I’ll be able to start milling it from aluminum when I get back to Ottawa.

Its going to be a little taller than Buttercup in order to keep the speed up… the speed/torque tradeoffs of the Pololu motors that I bought for this thing last year mean that it will be 40mm high at the rear end. I can’t see this being much of a problem though.. there aren’t too many robots in the expert division that have troubles seeing even the shortest of robots anyhow. As long as the weight is kept low I don’t think that having a taller robot is much of a disadvantage.

PCB design is underway also. I should have it ready to send out for manufacturing in a couple days hopefully.

Posted in CNC, MiniSumo, Robot Games | 1 Comment

Videos from the CNRG/Ottawa Robot Games 2011

I finally finished uploading all the CNRG/ORE Robot Games videos to Youtube!

Time Lapse of the entire event:


Line Racing Part 1

Line Racing Part 1

Line Following Levels 1 and 2

Line Following Level 3

Line Following Level 4

Maze Solving with MK2P

Maze Solving with Walle

Maze Solving with Linus

Maze Solving with Lost



Posted in Line Following, LineORE, Maze Solving, MiniSumo, Robot, Robot Games, SumoORE | Leave a comment

Building a Prusa Mendel and new SumoORE PCBs

Well, with the Ottawa robot games over and done with this year, I’ve been able to turn my attention to the 3D printer that I’ve been ordering parts for. As previously posted, this thing has been on the backburner since February when I picked up a set of printed parts. I had been thinking about one for even longer but never got started.

Seeing the quality of the printed parts coming out of the UP! printer that Paul over at MakerEngineering has raised my interest level. Now, I don’t have $3k to throw at a printer sadly so I’m building a Prusa Mendel instead. The do-it-yourself reprap print quality has been slowly climbing (recent print by Josef Prusa) and I think it is good enough that I’ll be able to make use of the parts in future robots. As well as let the kids go crazy making stuff. 😉

I’m about 2 hours into my build so far. I’ve got the basic frame of the printer built up. Next step is to cut out some wood plates for the y-axis on the bottom and then I can start bolting more on. My hot-end for extruding the plastic is still a week or two away (assuming it doesn’t get caught up in the strike) so I still have time.


I also received a 2nd batch of SumoORE boards. The first batch is all built up now so I figured it was time to run a second set. I removed a couple of headers around the DC/DC charge pump and LiFEPO4 charger that ended up not being necessary as well as cleaned up the silkscreen.

This batch from Seeedstudio is fantastic quality. Its definitely hit or miss over there with iTead and Seeed. I’m starting to figure out how to easily tell between the crap PCB manufacturer and the good one though. The crap one turns the through holes on headers and stuff into hexagons instead of a true circle. The good one has beautiful round circles there instead. I can now pick up a PCB and tell within seconds whether I need to visually inspect the entire thing with my microscope before soldering.. 😉  Too bad there wasn’t some way of specifying which sub-contractor that iTead or Seeed was using to build boards.


Posted in PCB, RepRap, SumoORE | 3 Comments

CNRG/ORE Ottawa Robot Games 2011 were awesome!

Wow!!!!! Saturday went fast! I had tons of fun. Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to the volunteers that came out today to help me along (Rob, Norm, Albert and Luc!). Thanks to everyone that came out today both to compete and to watch. We had a pretty good sized crowd!

I’m going to get the results formatted nicely for the website so I can put up the results there, along with all the video that was taken during the day. In the mean-time, I have the tabulated results in Google docs here:

Competition results on the first tab and Prizes and winners on the second tab.

Sumo Brackets (ie- fight order):

Congratulations to our winners:

Line Following : (1) Ron Clough, (2) Diego Pontones, (3) Geoff Hall
Line Racing : (1) Diego Pontones, (2) Ron Clough, (3) Andrzej Borowiec
Maze Solving : (1) Ron Clough, (2) CURC Uber Epics, (3) Geoff Hall
Minisumo : (1) Geoff Hall, (2) Snuggles the robot, (3) FingerTech Robotics

A special thanks to all of our sponsors:
Microchip, Pololu, FingerTechRobotics, Solarbotics, RobotCraft,, Active Tech, TI/Avnet!

When you are out buying parts for your robots, remember to try and support the vendors who supported us.

I was busy running around the entire day so I didn’t grab too many pics. Here are a few that I took.

A shot from the back of the room during the robot check-in:


A view from the front, getting ready to do some line racing.


A robot midway through our level 3 line following course. If I’m not mistaken, that is ‘Speedy’ by Brian Underwood. It definitely lived up to its name.


A shot of our line racing track. Took nearly an entire roll of electricians tape to plot that out. Our fastest robot (Speedy from above) was able to run the course in right around 20 seconds, but had some issues stopping in the start/stop area unfortunately. The winning robot was at 37 seconds. If only Speedy had been Stoppy too.


Luckily there was an awesome photographer named Arnaud Weck lurking in the crowd and he took some fantastic pictures of the robots and people at the event. You can find those on his picasa page here.

For those of you counting, you’ll notice that the LineORE and SumoORE designs took 10 of the 12 top spots. Sweet!

I’m looking forward to the Ottawa games next year!



Posted in Line Following, LineORE, Maze Solving, MiniSumo, Robot, Robot Games, SumoORE | 2 Comments

Prusa Mendel parts starting to arrive

I’ve got a 3D printer build on the backburner. I picked up a set of the printed parts for a Prusa Mendel RepRap earlier this year from Paul over at for a price that I couldn’t resist. My plan is to start building it after the CNRG/ORE robot games on June 11th are done. In order to start getting the parts in place, I ordered a set of Nema17 steppers as well as the various mechanical bits and pieces that I need to build the unit from Thingfarm NA. I likely could have sourced it all locally for less $$$, but my attention span is short enough that I didn’t want to get stuck on a fastener or two a month down the road and end up not finishing it.

Anyhow, with the pending postal strike starting tonite, the guys at Thingfarm upgraded my order to Fedex for free and I ended up getting the parts a heck of a lot faster than I was expecting! Andrew Netherton at Thingfarm NA rocks!


My kids are dying for me to get this thing up and running. They were fascinated by the machines that they saw at the Ottawa MiniMaker Faire last November and are ready to start building stuff. My one son has a list of lego figures that he wants built. 😉

My extruder nozzle is still in the mail… likely will be a few weeks until it gets here as its coming someplace in Europe and will surely by stalled by Canada Post at some point.

In celebration of the stuff arriving, I built up a new SumoORE minisumo robot in white. I hadn’t built any white ones until now because I wasn’t sure that they would look good. I was so wrong! I think white is my new favourite. I also got in my backlit 2×8 character LCDs today so I hooked a blue one up to the white robot and it looks pretty pimp.



Black is more of a traditional sumo colour in order to hide from your opponents, but white actually has some advantages too… if you manage to get under your opponent and they see the white of your blade, they may decide that they’ve seen the ring edge and start backing up! If you pull it off, its an easy win for your minisumo.


Posted in RepRap, Robot, SumoORE | 2 Comments

Built a new batch of SumoORE minisumo controllers

Building up one last batch of SumoORE minisumo controllers before the CNRG/Ottawa Robot Games on June 11th. Still need to solder on the IR detectors/transmitters, but I generally wait until I’ve got them in the chassis before doing that.


I had a heck of a time with this batch of boards. 3 of the 4 boards had whiskers between signals/power and ground. It took a bunch of hunting around with my microscope to figure out where they were. 2 of the boards weren’t bad, with only single whiskers to track down. One of the boards had 5 of them between power and ground. OUCH! Without the microscope I would have been out of luck. Seeedstudio quality was poor this time around. This was one of their $40 batches from before they dropped the price too, so its not like they just started cutting those corners.

I guess the trick is to pay the extra $10 and make sure that all of the boards are electrically tested.





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CNC’ing SumoORE Chassis

Took a video of the latest chassis being cut on the CNC machine.  I’ve made some small changes to the chassis to make it fit together a little more snugly, added a cutout at the front top plate to make it easier for me to solder in the cable going to the ground sensor, as well as adjusted the lengths of the top and blade sections so that they line up more closely with their neighbours.

Takes a little under 7 minutes to cut a chassis!

One of these days I’ll build a mount on the milling head so I don’t have to manually hold that vacuum . 😉


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Building wheels for line followers

The LineORE line followers come with a 36mm wheels made from sintra and an o-ring. Depending on the motor gear ratio used in the particular robot, that gives up to around 80cm/s. That’s pretty peppy for the line following and events at the CNRG/Ottawa Robot Games coming up in June, but more speed can likely be used in the line racing event because of the more gentle corners and longer straight stretches.

One way to get more speed is to upgrade the motors to something faster from Pololu. The cheaper way is to use larger wheels. I drew up a new wheel and then sized it for 36mm, 42mm, 48mm and 54mm (with rubber band installed). That will give me some options for testing with. That works out to a speed boost of 16.7% for each increase beyond the stock 36mm, topping out at 50% faster with the 54mm wheels.


The motors sit on a sintra base mounted on the PCB. In order to keep the robot rear end from lifting up and the robot looking like a drag racer, I sized the wheels so that I can add a 3mm sintra spacer under the motors for each 6mm increase in wheel diameter.

I also switched to rubber bands instead of o-rings. The o-rings look nicer, but they are a pain to build because I have to groove the wheels using a motor/wheel mounted in a vice and then cut a groove with a V milling bit. Its hard to keep the wheel straight without being able to clamp it and I end up wasting wheels when things go wrong. What I really need to do is make a nice 3mm rod with a D flat on one end with threads so I can clamp it into my lathe, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.

In the meantime, I picked up a huge bag of rubber bands from the dollar store and I’m using that instead. The rubber bands seem to stick pretty well on the wheels so I think it will be fine. If not, a dab of crazy glue in the 4 corners of the wheel will do the trick.

In other news, the SumoORE libraries have been rev’d up to revision 1.2. The new code has finer control over the motors, added speed ramping to avoid lifting the front end of the robot off the ground when switching directions as well as added more minisumo and line following demo code. Don’t miss the tutorial that we put together for the robot also, showing how to implement a simple sumo strategy from scratch and learn a bit of C in the process!

Posted in Line Following, LineORE, Maze Solving, Robot, Robot Games | Leave a comment

O.R.E. invades ModLab

A few O.R.E. members went out to the ModLab gathering which is held every 2 weeks here in Ottawa. Its always interesting to get a different perspective on things… ModLab is a mix of artists, makers and techies so it can be pretty interesting. I brought a few of my minisumo and line follower robots out as I knew one of the ModLab guys (Paul) was working on a minisumo also, but we didn’t get a chance to duke it out as his is still in development sorting out a few electrical issues.

Paul is one of the 3D printing enthusiasts here in town, starting from the Mendel/RepRap side of things and more recently progressings to an Up! from DesktopFab. I had seen photos and videos on that printer on the internet, but it definitely doesn’t do it justice. Paul brought along a wing that he is working on as part of an entire RC airplane that will be built from the ground up on his printer. The quality of the part was amazing! Super flat and thin walls. The resolution of the printer is heads and shoulders better than the RepRap and MakerBot printers that I’ve seen. Must start saving up for one of these….

No pics unfortunately, but you can see for yourself what fun stuff the ModLab guys and gals are working on by making it out to their next meeting on June 1st!

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5 SumoOREs out in the wild

There are 5 sumoORE robots roaming the wilds of Ottawa… Even had to part with my personal one! So tonight I sat down and built up a new one. New wheels showed up from Solarbotics so this time I went with black all over.

Looking good!


I’m almost out of materials for these robots so I had to order new batteries and LCDs… Hopefully they get here before the end of May so I can continue taking over the world with these guys….

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