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San Francisco RoboGames 2005


March 23
Been working like mad trying to finish my minisumo Solo. I found a couple design issues, after initial power on the motor driver FETs were getting *very* warm. Turns out the inputs were floating because the microcontroller turns the outputs to high impedance if it is unprogrammed so I added a couple pull down resistors and problem solved. The other problem is the GP2Y0D340K sensors I used draw a fair bit of current (37mA active and detecting) Normally this wouldn't be a problem but the SO8 7805 voltage regulator I was using was internally limited to 100mA and with four sensors running was causing resets galore. I could probably have done a quick fix by putting another 7805 in parallel, effectively doubling the regulation current but alas I had run out of time.  The taxi picks me up at 4:00 am , plane leaves at 6:00 and I still need to pack. I pack some series resistors and a cold heat soldering iron to do a bit of fixing when I get there. Hopefully I can borrow something to program this on as my programming laptop was stolen. I will put the programming essentials on a CD.

I like the flight to Vancouver, great view of the Rocky Mountains.

Arrive Vancouver at 6:30 take a picture of "The Spirit of Haida Gwaii". Been wanting to do that ever since it appeared on the new $20 bill. Plane leaves at 9:20.

Arrive San Francisco airport at 11:36. Task list on the agenda- Find hotel then food. Getting to the hotel wasn't so bad Mission Inn on Mission St. A bit of a walk from the closest BART stop with 80lbs of luggage... shoulders.. tired. Get to my hotel room and realize the bed is comfier than it looks, wake up three hours later, shower and head out for supper.

Chinese food for supper, oddly little in the way of seafood or sushi, no idea where to go for breakfast.

Head back to the Hotel, sleep.

March 24

Take a bus to SF State University, got something to eat at one of the concessions. Birds are fast and friendly they can catch a bread crumb out of mid air, impressive reaction time. This one looks like it's going to explode or something.

Drop in on the Gym where the main combat robot event will take place, not much going on. The battle box is basically done and with nice shiny new lexan as well.

Walk to the Zoo, not bad but I think Calgary's is a bit better. Tunya the lion poses for a picture.

Walk to the beach, it's nice. There are some hotels here that are closer to the venue, will check them out.


"I walk a lonely road"

Start back to the hotel, get stuck on wrong side of lake Merced, no through path on the golf course. Long walk, near full moon, full tomorrow. Find water fountain for pets, neat.

Finally back at hotel, watch a Mythbusters episode- Cooling a 6 pack, breaking in buster 2.0 and ancient batteries. Wonder how much current those batteries produced? They could use an electrical engineer... Adam just about gets electrocuted by an electric fence module, not good.

March 25

Eat a burrito for breakfast, not much else around Mission Inn, nearest IHOP I know of is at least a 5 hour walk.

Head to the University. Looks like the preliminary Combat bot matches have started, see a few familiar faces (Hey Nic!). Still not a whole lot happening yet so I head to the library and look up M5. I seem to remember they are in the SF bay area, if close enough I will try to make it, big fan of the show. Looks like they are just down the road from my hotel! Head out.

Took a picture of the map so I would have a map with me.

Arrive at M5, surreal.

No Mythbusters sign outside anymore?

The door open's Jamie and Adam appear. Introductions, a quick handshake and a signed postcard. Jamie was kind enough to give me a quick tour of M5. Nice facility looks bigger in real life. They seem busy and I don't want to be a pest so I say my thanks and head back out. (If you do read this Jamie or Adam once again thanks! it was great to meet ya!). Definitely a highlight of the trip.

Get back to the University, basically closed down for the evening but they are giving away free Red Bull. Drink my first Red Bull, whee.

Pack up my gear and venture forth to my new hotel - Robert's on the Beach.

Go for a long moonlit walk on the beach, gawd I love California.

Late night, sleep.. or try to, damn Red Bull.

March 26

Get to the University early, talk with a bunch of people. Show off Solo answer lots of questions.

Turns out my registration never made it, sigh. Dave Caulkins lets me take his position as he didn't have time to finish his minisumo "Blue Dragon" (you were going to co-ordinate the games and compete a minisumo? not enough Red Bull in the world meethinks :)

Now I'm stuck with a choice- I only get to compete with one minisumo. Do I compete with the current champion (Enders Wraith) or the untested sumo that is designed to beat it (Solo)? I pick Solo (big mistake!)

Solo manages to make it to the finals and they take place tomorrow.

The sensor on Solo have not been programmed in yet, normally I would have brought my laptop like just about everyone else to do some last minuet programming but alas, my laptop was stolen awhile ago and I am laptopless. I ask around and Nic offers his laptop provided while I'm using it I sell some "Got Robot's) T-shirts. The laptop doesn't generate high enough voltage signals to program the microcontroller without a buffer but I do manage to sell a couple of T-shirts!

Next I ask Jin if I can borrow his laptop, he graciously offers although his OS is mostly in Japanese. Doh! same problem. Note to self- IBM thinkpads can't program AVR microcontrollers! (at least not without external buffering) I know that ASUS, Sony or Dell will work but everyone seems to have thinkpads! it's a conspiracy. Now being at a university you would think that a computer lab would be open right? ahh but it's spring break!

Finally after some talking it over Nick offers the use of his home computer (Thanks!).

Watch some funny Robocup matches and some loud and bright combat robot fights.

Ziggy (The impressive hexapod that Nic built) takes first place in the walker contest, Congrads!

Hitch a ride with Nick to his place, it's close. Meet Nick's son (really grown from last year) and lovely wife. It takes about 5 minuets to get Solo basically programmed and running, I *need* to get a replacement laptop! Nick shows me around the place, nice pad.  Sleep in Nick's guest room in the basement with the giant spider and mummy :) The next morning I also get to meet the Python:


Snake 'o' clock.

March 27

Arrive at the University a bit later than yesterday but I didn't have to walk so Yah!.

After a close match Solo gets beat out by a sumo from Singapore and since I can't compete with Ender I'm out, this marks the first competition I haven't gotten either first or second.

I have some grudge matches at the end, Ender can easily beat the #1 sumo - Returner just like last year (see the Video section), Doh!. Nice team from Singapore though, look forward to seeing them again next year.

The games wind down, looks like there are not enough participants to run the BEAM events, drat. Without much going on I find a paper clip and bend it to my initials.

The battle box needs to be packed up before Monday at 8 in the morning, given how much work this takes looks like it will take most of the night.

I stayed until 2:30 am deconstructing the battle box, then my ride had to leave (hey work tomorrow)

Each one of the floor panels weighs in at a bit over 700lbs, not fun to move around.

March 28

Head to the mall beside the university and look around for a bit. Walk back to the gym to take a look around, the floor is in better shape than I thought.

 Head off to the airport and on to Seattle. Miss my Seattle connector and spend the night walking around Sea Tac (At least I found an IHOP open 24/7 !) I probably walked a few miles but there really isn't too much happening during that time. "But it's home to me and I walk alone"

Can't get that song out of my head.

Arrive back in Calgary, whew. Tired, Haven't slept in two days :\

Now I just need to finish that linear proportional hydrostatic valve controller.

All for now.

GrantM. April 2005