March 14th Meeting Minutes

ChiBots Meeting Minutes – Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The meeting was called to order by our President, Salvador G. at 1305.  All of the officers, plus the Program and Competition Chairmen were present Most of the Officers Another Officer.  The meeting proceeded as usual, following our posted agenda for the most part.  Although the weather cooperated, as it did for the CIRC games eight days earlier, our turnout of under 25 was less than that of recent meetings.

Our Treasurer, Tony S., gave his report.  There were no expenditures for the month, and dues were collected from 12 more members and their families.  As noted in our previous minutes, the sign-in sheet now indicates paid-up dues, since only those members are eligible for a door prize drawing.  Don and Royce have still not been paid, but this is only because they have failed to turn in their expenses.  Come on, guys!  Salvador reminded the group that they could pay their 2010 dues today, if they have not already done so.

Al S made a request for topics suitable for future presentations, as well as for those individuals who would be willing to give a presentation.  He also distributed a survey form which members filled out, describing presentations that they could give.  Don reminded those present that one need not be an “expert” on a subject to give a presentation.  In fact, members are encouraged to educate themselves on a single topic and present that at a meeting.  A lively discussion usually follows, and everyone benefits.  He also reintroduced the concept of “mini-presentations”, lasting perhaps only 15-20 minutes.  Three of these could be done at a single meeting.

Salvador once again asked for a volunteer to serve as Chairman of the Publicity and Membership Committee.  The response was underwhelming, but all hope has yet to be abandoned.  An alternative is for Salvador to appoint several members to the Committee, then encourage them to elect their own chairman.
Salvador noted that people are working on a new trifold, and fruits of that labor should soon appear on the ChiBots website.  When that happens there will be an announcement in the group email, and members will be asked to comment before a final version is printed.  It is unclear how the printing is to be accomplished.

Salvador asked for an update regarding the CIRC competition, which was held on Saturday, March 6th.  Don, Scott and Tony were not able to attend for various reasons, but Isidro M. and his grandson did make it.  Unfortunately, there was a camera malfunction, so no pictures are available.  Instead, Isidro gave a brief verbal report.  As usual, the CIRC games were well managed, and the prizes were great.  Their president, Dan T., tells us that pre-registration has worked well for them.  Perhaps we should ask them to share their “secrets” for obtaining multiple, generous sponsors  :-).

Salvador reminded the group that our SRS RoboMagellan competition is scheduled for July 24th at the Moraine Valley Community College, with a backup date of July 17th.  In the past we have had people from MN, WI and IN attend.  This year someone from SW Ontario is also planning to attend.  Hopefully folks from IL will not be outnumbered.  Terry J. says that the SRS rules have a typo in them.  He has brought this to their attention, but thus far it has not been corrected.  Rick B. said that he has checked, and we are allowed to conduct a RoboMagellan contest in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve without having to obtain either a permit, or insurance.  No prior notification to the Forest Preserve District is necessary.

Tony S. met with Antigone, an instructor at Triton College (2000 Fifth Ave, River Grove, ½ mile N of North Ave) who has been in contact with Salvador for two years.  She is in charge of three newly-developed rooms which house a computer lab, an electronics lab and a machine shop.  While Triton is also a potential location for a RoboMagellan contest, she is primarily interested in ChiBots using the three rooms for Robot Builder’s Day Out (RBDOs), with the expectation that Triton college students would be allowed to participate.  The space is not available on Saturday mornings, but is open in the afternoons.  Don suggested that we consider this offer, meeting perhaps from 1300 to 1700, and preparing invitational flyers to be posted on student bulletin boards in the week prior to each RBDO.  Of course, the students who attend RBDOs are also welcome at ChiBots monthly meetings, where they can enjoy all of the benefits of membership.  Antigone noted that some of her students would like to hold a robot drag race competition.  Tony assured her that we would be able to help them in the design and construction of their robots.  It is unclear to what extent the college would be willing to underwrite the cost of the student’s robotics components.  ChiBots could help select the robot kits that would be used in the races, but then revert to being part of the computer and electronics labs’ teaching materials.
Rick B announced that the FIRST Regional competition would be held on Friday/Saturday, March 19/20 at the UIC Pavilion.  Members were invited to attend, and if they wished, to volunteer their help by going to the FIRST Internet site to register.

Al S introduced our presenter, Roger Barski, who is a ChiBots member and Director of the Nautical Archeology Group (NAG), Great Lakes Region.  His topic was “Remote Sensing for Underwater Research, Discovery, and Recovery”.  Those present were treated to a comprehensive history of underwater exploration, complete with multiple slides and illustrations Roger BarskiAnother Slide from Rogers Presentation.  Current standards for underwater archeology were presented.  These include using GPS on the surface ship, plus an underwater transponder network to obtain and preserve an absolute global position for every artifact discovered.  Eventually the dangerous practice of having people dive to great depths in a variety of special purpose vehicles was replaced by sending Tow Cameras and Remotely Operated (underwater) Vehicles (ROVs) to conduct the exploration.  The ROVs can be equipped with a variety of tools, cameras and manipulators.  Current practice is for the ROV to place a newly discovered and acquired artifact onto a specially designed “elevator”, which safely delivers it to the surface.

NAG is using some of Robert Ballard’s innovations.  See < >.  In particular, NAG is in the process of building and equipping its own underwater camera sled called TowCam One.  This can be towed at about one mph by a surface ship, and is used to locate and photograph underwater archeology sites, including shipwrecks.  There are an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.  The locations of most of these are unknown.  However, NAG has as one of its goals the exploration of 12 well-known shipwrecks that are close to the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.  It’s called the Illinois Historic Shipwreck Project (IHSP).  Roger has invited readers to visit the NAG website at, where one can find a great variety of current projects listed on the “A Year in Review - 2009” link.

Tow Cam #1Tow Cam #1 (side view)TowCam One has been constructed for NAG in the welding shop of Moraine Valley Community College.  At 47.5” in length, it is essentially a quarter-scale reproduction of Ballard’s original design.  Planned modifications include a modular system consisting of batteries, cameras, computers, etc.  Testing will occur in Lake Michigan later this summer.  The front camera is angled downward and used for steering, while the downward cameras collect the actual data.  Future upgrades include a pair of steering cameras to provide binocular vision, increased quality for the downward cameras, and the addition of two side-facing cameras.  To be included are powerful LED lamps, plus a compass, and temperature, depth, and other sensors.  The final addition will be an attached ROV that can be dropped near an archeology site for a closer look.

NAG’s TowCam One is being designed to operate reliably down to 300 feet, which is adequate to explore many of the shSupporting Castipwrecks located in Lake Michigan.  Information from the sled will be sent to the surface ship, probably through a fiber optic cable.  Eventually there will be no need for a bulky cable, as the TowCam One will have its own batteries, thus power will not need to be supplied by the surface ship, as occurred with the original prototype.  In the future NAG hopes to acquire its own surface support ship for Lake Michigan exploration and discovery.  The audience was very attentive, and a discussion period followed.

Show, Tell and Ask proceeded as usual, with many interesting robots and projects displayed and discussed.
Tony showed a project that he and Scott had been working on, consisting of a new controller board and a specially designed chassis.  Brian has been working on a bot as well.  He had a question about the “best” PWM frequency to use.  The answer, of course, is that “it depends”, but 15-20 KHz is good if motor inductance permits this without significant loss of power.  Eddy remarked that with Locked Antiphase (LAP) Drive he adjusts the frequency so that at a full stop, current flow in the motor is minimized.  This may account for his FAN8200 (rated at 650 ma continuous) not overheating when driving a Tamiya Twin Motor Gearbox, which has motors that can pull 2.1A at stall.  Terry J. told about a “hamster ball” robot that he had seen.  Unlike the pendulum-driven spherical bots, this one had a four-wheel bot inside of a transparent sphere.  It had only ONE sensor, a two-axis accelerometer which detects tilt.  The bot only ran forward and attempted to maintain itself level, resulting in the sphere moving around in a predictable manner.  Eddy led a discussion of the six-rotor helicopter that was seen on a video link recently posted to the ChiBots group mail.  Check it out for yourself at  Note that the rotor blades do not actually stop during decent.  This is an artifact due to the video frame rate.  Build instructions are at

The Big WinnerThe door prize raffle was conducted by Tony and Salvador.  The BRAT Jr (see 2/14 presentation) was won by a new member, Cody Dorn.  Tom W and Tony S. each won a MaxBotix sensor.  Don won a book titled “Robots, Androids and Animations”, by John Iovine.  The meeting concluded at 1610.