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Monthly Meeting Recap – 3/9/14

Robot Show & Tell:

  • Dan Toborowski showed us the final design of his custom PCB for the combat arena match timer and control system. The board will function as an Arduino Mega shield and provide all of the components and connections needed in a more compact and robust package. Dan used EagleCad to create the board with assistance from CIRC PCB design expert Mike Dvorsky. Dan is having the boards made by OSH Park which took over BatchPCB from Sparkfun. One of the major benefits of OSH Park is that they’ll accept EagleCAD board files removing the need to create and send the raw Gerber files.
  • Jon Granstrom mentioned that the powerful data processing, automation, and simulation tool MatLab can now be obtained at a special much lower “home” user cost. While this software would usually cost thousands for a single seat, this new pricing options allows individual home users to get the software for just $150 and $45 for each toolbox. You can find out more about MatLab’s capabilities specifically for hobby robotics here.
  • Peter Campbell showed us an interesting video of Project Tango. This is a Google research project that aims to provide high-definition 3D  mapping capability in a smart phone platform. They have already fabricated some prototype developer phones. It’s unclear exactly how capable this technology is and when we’ll see the feature in a commercially available device. Peter also showed us an interesting fractal music clip made with Mandelbulb 3D, a free PC program.
  • Ben Daniels brought a Magician robot chassis from Sparkfun that he built for an online course called “Control of Mobile Robots” available from Coursera. This college-level course discusses control theory with discussions of microcontrollers, mechatronics, and electronics. Ben is utilizing a BeagleBone Black as the main control board for this project. Ben also mentioned the recent news that a federal judge has ruled that the FAA has no legally binding rules limiting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use. Of course the FAA has already filed an appeal though.
  • Mike Dvorsky demonstrated the Pololu wheel encoders which he recently added to his line follower/maze robot. Mike created a custom Python script with PyQT that utilizes the wireless XBee system to communicate the encoder information from the robot to a PC and plot the measured course. Mike’s plan is to utilize the mapping capability to learn the line following and maze course at our Bot Brawl competition so the robot can intelligently modify its speed in straightaways and curves to maximize its overall speed.
  • Brian Oleson talked about the design update he has planned for the combat arena trap door. Brian was tasked with coming up with a way to prevent robots from getting caught in the trap door pit and determined that increasing the size of the pit box would suffice and can be easily supported with a few simple changes to the arena. Brian also shared his experiences at the first ever Pekin FRC regional tournament which took place the last week of February. Brian caught the final matches and described the common designs and strategies employed.


  • Next monthly meeting will be April 13th
  • Lakeview Library meeting room is unavailable in May so instead of a monthly meeting we’ll have a 2014 RoboMagellan season “kickoff” meeting. More details on this event to come.

Upcoming Events:


  • Peoria Riverfront Museum Engineers Day Event (February 16th)
  • Overview of Caterpillar Autonomy Systems – Dan Toborowski

Community Event Opportunities:

  • FIRST LEGO League Head Judge Needed. Responsibilities include attending state organizer training, signing up volunteer judges and referees, and providing official table competition rulings at practice scrimmages and regional tournaments. If interested in helping please contact


  • In process of changing hosts due to various problems
  • We would like to add more content to the CIRC website. If you’re interested in providing product reviews, event recaps, getting started tutorials, or other content please provide to Josh, our webmaster.

Bot Brawl:

  • Please register your robots ASAP on the BuildersDatabase to help attract other competitors!
  • We reviewed the tentative event schedule. This will be posted to the competition page ASAP.
  • Bruce demoed an available bracket software that automatically generates match brackets, keeps tracks of results, and could help us determine how much time has passed since each competitors last match. Bruce will do some more experimentation with the tool and decide if it will adequately meet our needs.
  • We decided to rent a 5200 lumen projector for our April 5th event. This is necessary in order to project video in the very bright arena but comes with a high price tag for the service. We will evaluate the benefit this year and determine whether or not to continue using this option for future Bot Brawls.
  • Latest version of Bot Brawl roles spreadsheet will be shared with everyone currently on the list.

March 9, 2014 at 7:30 am | Monthly Meeting Recaps | No comment

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