*Originally posted by CaptainPlaid *
** Well, we all know that you have to wear safety glasses while you are driving (although personally I don’t think saftey glasses would help if something made it through the plexiglass of the driver station). You might as well have somewhere to plug them in right? Come see Big MO at Cleveland, GLR, or Nats. **
What, is that just a mechanical “retaining wire” while operating, a “storage clip” for between rounds, or are you actually putting blinking LEDs on your glasses or some other active, wired thing? (IMO “blinky glasses” would be interesting, but I think that violates the “no special clothing” rule, and could even become an entanglement hazard around the Operators Station!)
BTW… What is your team NUMBER, and your True Name, “CaptainPlaid”??? The Big Mo page cited doesn’t have your team number, nor a link to your main site, and you haven’t mentioned your real name in this thread.
Your control system sounds nice but the description is quite confusing. Any pics? I like the modular idea.
We’ll be at Buckeye (Cleveland OH) and GLR (Ypsilanti MI). I don’t have any pics yet, but some other members do. However, I don’t think they’ll be up before Cleveland, so just stop by and see 830 (Rat Pack) at the contest.
Let me take one more crack at describing the box… If this doesn’t suffice, I’ll have to work on a REAL document, with pictures.
First, our main board is simply a 4’ x 12" piece of 1/2" wooden shelving, used in bar and hook shelves. Layout is VERY similar to the boards used in the CDI contest, with the OI in the middle, and two “user stations”, one on either side:
We were in the CDI, and liked the layout, so we did something similar for this, our first contest. The joysticks are held down with 1"x1" velcro squares, to allow for quick R&R or something else to be placed there. We used the velcro cable ties from the kit, not wiring channel, but the LAYOUT is similar.
We set up a Driver’s station with a pair of joysticks, as is shown in the picture, but replace the OTHER station with an Aux Box that drops into the same space.
The basic Aux Box is made with 5 pieces of 1/2" plywood, held together with drywall screws, not glue, to allow disassembly if needed. It has four sides and a top, with the bottom open. OUTSIDE dimensions are around 13"w x 6"d x 4"h, (hack off ~.5-1" for INSIDE dimensions) which by design turns out to be EXACTLY the footprint of two CH Joysticks side by side. By picking these dimensions, the velcro mounting squares are in the same place, and we can switch the main board’s configuration to and from combinations of boxes and sticks at will.
The bottom of the box has two 5" sections of 1" L-channel, attached on the inside edges of the sides, with the bottom edges facing INWARDS. This provides a smooth surface underneath the box to place Velcro squares to hold it down to our main board, without marring the appearance of the box.
Wiring: The box has a hole drilled in the side for the cable with the DB connector on it. It is long enough to plug into ANY of the four port connectors when placed on either side of the OI, and has enough conductors in it to COMPLETELY wire the connector. On the inside of the box, an overhand knot in the cable acts as a strain relief, then the cable runs through cable tiedowns to a set of labeled barrier strips screwed on one of the long inside surfaces. This gives us a FULL set of SCREW terminals, with ALL of the signals available (4 pots, 5 switches), along with two grounds, and +5V. If we ever wish to, this design also allows us to add in and power a “custom box” from the barrier strip.
The top of the box has a cutout in it of about 10" x 4.75". Onto this, we drop a 11" x 5.25" aluminum “main panel”. That size gives us 1/2" around on all edges to screw it on with 3 sheet metal screws on each long edge. By picking a panel size within 11" x 8.5", it allows us to use any DTP software to make up a custom label on standard paper. One copy is sacrificed as a Drill Guide, then a fresh one is sandwiched inside a standard Page Protector sheet, trimmed, and held on with the same screws that hold the panel down.
THIS is where the design stops before a specific contest.
NOW your control panel is simply a “DROP IN”! For a specific contest, Electrical builds the generic board and box RIGHT AWAY during week ONE, and a few blank, FLAT panels. When you’re ready a couple of weeks later, punch the panel for whatever controls you’ve decided upon. No complex sheet metal work required, and NO soldering. If you screw up, grab another blank panel. Square holes for rocker switches are easily made with a Dremel and a 409 or 420 cutter disk. Your “switch bag” contains an assortment of switches, 100K pots, and LEDs with premade pigtails with ring tongue lugs on them. Edit and print your new label, punch your holes, sandwich a label sheet to it and screw it onto the box, drop in the controls, screw them onto whatever signals you wish, and you’re done with customizing the hardware within a day or so!
BTW… Even if you decide to “wear” some of your controls (i.e. a backpack “marionette” controller), the Aux Box provides you a place for your monitor LEDs, the OTHER switches and pots, and a custom “breakaway” jack for the backpack so you won’t have to worry about strain relief damage of the OI from an overexcited operator that moves around too much.
If you need to change something later at the contest, pull out your drill or Dremel, punch the new hole, drop in the new control or LED, screw it onto an unused analog or digital bit, use a magic marker on your top panel, and go tweak the program to use it.
The prewired barrier strip means NO soldering is required at the contest site for control system hardware changes!
We do also have a Mini-Box designed, that replaces the footprint of ONE joystick, with a Piggyback Feedthrough harness that doesn’t take up a port connector. (However, that wasn’t needed for THIS contest.) Each station COULD contain two joysticks and a FULL Aux Box, but we envision station configurations of 1-2 joysticks, and/or 1 full or mini Aux Box, with the most common being: 2 joysticks, 1 joy + 1 mini/full box, 2 joysticks + 1 mini BETWEEN them, or 1 full box.
For THIS contest, the Driver’s Station became simply a pair of CH Joysticks, with all auxilary controls mapped onto buttons and thumbwheels. The “Weapon’s Officer’s Station” has a single custom full sized Aux Box and all the strange control hardware.
I hope this explains things better. OOC, would there be any interest in a formal document on this modular OI board design, with images, for a white paper area somewhere?
**We have decided to keep all of our robots together though so we can make a new controller every year. Takes time but also allows for creativity. **
We felt that standardizing on a “generic modular control system design” of this style still keeps flexibility and creativity high, but eliminates a LOT of the unknowns in our build. NOW, we can get to work FASTER next time, and the electical group can have almost 90% of the board DONE before we have to know ANYTHING about our actual control needs.
For the same reason, we’re also starting design on a “standard RC control tray/board module” for next year. It’ll contain the RC, Spikes, and Victors, (and possibly the minibreaker panel as well), and simply bolt onto our frame. THIS year, IMHO wiring was a real nightmare. We were forced into SEVERAL reworks of frame components when we found what we hadn’t ENOUGH good space reserved for electrical stuff, and some people plumb forgot about connector clearances. <DOH!>
BTW, although we made an Electrical Simulator Board to test out things via umbilical, when we got to putting the RC onto its FINAL position on the machine, we found that the RC’s RADIO connector was damaged and wouldn’t work! With the shipping delays, we didn’t get a working RC back from Innovation First repair until a few HOURS before shipping on 2/19…
That is why NEXT time, we’re going to just allocate a suspension bolt-on point on the machine somewhere for a simple, prewired RC “module” board, to make sure it is functional and completed in its “robot form” MUCH sooner!
BTW… Our DRIVETRAIN this year is modular, too! Now THAT worked out well!
- Keith McClary, Advisor, Ann Arbor (MI) Huron High Team 830 “Rat Pack”