ChiBots Meeting Minutes – Sunday, June 13, 2010

The meeting was called to order by our President, Salvador G at 1310.  All of the officers, plus the Presentation Chairman were present.  We were joined later by the Competition Chairman.  This meeting was again on the second Sunday of the month, as will be all subsequent meetings this calendar year.  The turnout improved from the previous meeting, with several people attending for the first time.  This was due, in part, to our presence at the Embedded Systems Conference.

Our Treasurer, Tony S, gave his report.  There were no expenditures for the month.  Dues have been collected from 19 members since January 1, 2010.  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 still have not yet turned in their expenses.

Salvador reminded those present that our 2010 annual dues for individual/family of $20 are now payable.  He again asked for a volunteer to become the iHobby Expo liaison person.  This year the duties will consist mostly of handling emails, preparing a list of names for Exhibitors badges and registration of ChiBotica entries.  Much of the booth layout and planning has already been accomplished.  Finally, a renewed request for someone to assume the role of Publicity Committee Chairman was made.

Salvador also said that our SRS RoboMagellan competition is definitely scheduled for July 24th at the Moraine Valley Community College.  Per KJohn, these dates have been confirmed by both the Dean and the MVCC board.  SERVO Magazine will be notified so that the date can be included in their ‘Events Calendar’.  In the past we have had people from MN, IA, WI, IN and IL participate.  This year someone from SW Ontario is also planning to attend.  Eric G has agreed to make a presentation on RoboMagellan at the July 11th meeting.

Our officers met with representatives of Triton College on the evening of April 21st.  Triton has a complex of rooms that include a machine shop and electronics lab, plus an associated build area with large tables that is suitable for Robot Builder’s Day Out (RBDO).

Tony reported on progress to date.  It appears that our first RBDO will be on Thursday, 6/24 from 1800 until 2200.  As noted last month, the shop area is not available on Fridays or weekends over the summer.  However, after school reopens in September, ChiBots may be able to hold RBDOs on Saturday afternoons, 1300-1700 on a monthly basis.  In turn, ChiBots could provide robotic presentations and demonstrations for Triton students.  ChiBots members could also provide mentoring for student projects.  Of course, Triton students would be welcome to attend and participate in our RBDOs.

At the president’s request, Don gave a brief review of our adventures at iHobby Expo last year, where ChiBotica was conducted over a two-day period.  We had entrants from CA, MA, KS, MI, IN, WI and IL.  Mike Davey demonstrated his Nickel-o-Matic and Dan Toborowski (president of CIRC) brought his Marble Maze.  Mike has agreed to a repeat this year (including his Turing Machine), but nothing yet from Dan.  The iHobby Expo show manager has confirmed that we are invited back in October, and said nothing about a change in booth size.  Therefore, we can plan to again occupy a 20’ X 40’ space, unless we are otherwise informed.

Don, Tony and Salvador reported on the club’s experiences at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), which was held in conjunction with the Sensors Expo at the Rosemont Convention Center.  The exhibit hall was open on June 8th and 9th.   Don and Tony enjoyed the free Keynote addresses on both mornings.  There were a series of images projected on two large screens just prior to the beginning of the keynote address.  The last slide on June 8th featured ChiBots, using the text provided by Salvador and multiple pictures of robots courtesy of our members.

ChiBots had a 10’ X 10’ booth that was very near the main entrance.  Although our notice was extremely short, the booth came together thanks to the work of our officers, and Eric.  Terry J and Eric G were present most of both days, as were Tony S and Don K.  Terry demonstrated a line-following robot that did not use an MCU, plus other robots on static display.  Tony and Don exhibited some miniSumo robots and conducted a brief demonstration of this contest.  Eric had the BRAT Jr on display, and demonstrated his face-tracking software using two different robots.  Numerous members came by, including Victor D, Dave J and Rick B.  We had many visitors from industry, including the CFO of Parallax.

Don reported on a visitor, Drew Fustini, to our ESC booth from Pumping Station: One.  You can visit their website at < http://pumpingstationone.org/ >.   He invited ChiBots members to attend any of their meetings, which are open to members and non-members.  They are located at 3354 N. Elston Ave., in Chicago.  They have had many interesting presentations, as can be seen by visiting the website.  In exchange, PS-1 members were invited to attend our meetings.

As there were three new people attending the meeting, we went around the room and introduced ourselves per our custom. 

Next was the June presentation by Al Rossetti,  who has recently acquired a Pololu 3pi.  This inspired a presentation on AVR processors, focusing upon the ATmega328P, but also covering much of their related lines.  Al discussed most of the salient features of these processors, with some attention to their Harvard architecture, which allows processing most of the RISC instructions in a single clock cycle.  Most of the MCUs ship with the clock set to the internal 8 MHz oscillator and the prescaler set to 8, which results in a 1 mHz clock.  While this is adequate for many robotics needs, in most cases it is possible to run the MCU at up to 20 MHz, using the highest allowed supply voltage (+5V) and an external crystal, or ceramic resonator.  Both parallel port and USB programmers are readily available.  Free programming languages include C (via winAVR and AVR Studio), as well as the versatile and full-featured BASCOM compiler (free for programs up to 4K ).  For more details visit the ChiBots website, where Al agreed to post a copy of his Power Point slides.  The 3pi demonstrated its line follower ability and by doing so attracted an audience.

Show, Tell and Ask proceeded as usual.  Don brought in a book that he recommends reading if you are involved with programming embedded processors, as many of us are.  It is titled, If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?  The author is Lisa Simone, who has a long work history in embedded programming and is currently a biomedical research professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  She has a BSEE, plus an MS and PhD in biomedical engineering.  Don also brought along a collection of magazines which contain a wealth of information that can be useful to hobby roboticists.  The ones shown were: Circuit Cellar, Elektor, MAKE, Nuts & Volts, Robot Magazine and SERVO.

Mike Z brought in a robotic arm that he has used primarily to test a software suite that he developed several years ago.  Both the arm and software have novel features, and were demonstrated to those present over a year ago.  Eddy brought in a sample of a new board that he has been working on, which features an ATmega1284.  The board can use an SD card for data storage, and supports a ZigBee module from Parallax.  He expects to be able to provide this board, along with the earlier ChiBots Controller Board by mid-August.  Eddy also showed a development station that he has been using to work with Atmel chips.  It consists of a power supply, push buttons, relays, wireless breadboard, LCD display, and more.  This appears to be a very convenient way to develop new circuits and software.

Al S brought in an ‘antique’ robotic toy named “BUSTER”, who will be mobile once ‘his’ restoration is complete.  Victor showed his home-brew, versatile USB programmer, complete with JTAG.  He is using the PonyProg Programmer, which is commonly used in Europe.  A quick Internet search yields, “PonyProg is a serial device programmer software with a user-friendly GUI framework available for Windows95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and Intel Linux.  Its purpose is reading and writing every serial device.  At the moment it supports I²C Bus, Microwire, SPI EEPROM, plus the Atmel AVR and Microchip PIC MCUs”.  Looks like Victor is on to something!

The door prizes were won by Madhangopal R and Aadithyaa S, and consisted of a MaxBotix sensor and a book.

Thus the members parted, after noting the next meeting date four weeks hence, July11th.

Submitted 06/30/10
Don Kerste, Secretary