Overdue Update

It's been a long time since my last update, and I figure I should post something. Hopefully updates will be more regular. I've had a few things I wanted to post on my blog, but I didn't want to do it without posting a more comprehensive update, and didn't really want to post a comprehensive update, so nothing got done. A deadlock so to speak. Anyways, I'll start off with what's happened to me since the last update.

I finally graduated from Sacramento State in December and got my Bachelors degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. It was a lot of work, but in the end it was worth it. It wasn't really all that difficult, just a lot of work. My aunt and cousin came out to Sacramento to watch me walk during the cerimony, which was actually relatively quick.

I've also just recently quit playing World of Warcraft. The expansion pack really killed the game for me, just a lot of work and not that much reward for doing it. I mean, it's really just a giant treadmill to keep people entertained, but it wasn't really entertaining anymore, so I've quit.

Last month I got a Nintendo Wii. After deciding I wanted to get one, it took a few weeks for me to finally find one. I ended up getting it at Wal-mart during their Sunday sale early in the morning. It's a lot of fun to play, especially wii sports. I also got Zelda along with it, and later bought Paper Mario. Zelda wasn't quite as fun as I was hoping for, and I haven't beaten it yet. Paper mario was a lot of fun and I beat it in a few days, although there was way to much text for it in my opinion. It's also a lot of fun to play wii sports on a giant projector, so if you ever get a chance to do that, you should.

It's kind of nice being out of school, although that means that having a job is the next step. Initially I put my resume up on monster and contacted one company that did web applications in Davis, but I didn't get chosen for the position. I also put my resume up on the Sacramento State Career site and got one interview from that; I didn't really want to do what they offered, so I passed on that. I also went to the job fair at Sacramento State and got two interviews out of the process, although nothing panned out from that either (one was consulting and the other was mainly for an internship).

I was browsing the Career Newsletter at Sacramento State, and saw a position at Schilling Robotics in Davis. I had heard about Schilling from my friend Zach, who works there. I had been asking him when they were hiring computer science students and he said they weren't. However, this posting was new so I talked to him about it, and he gave my resume to the right person, so I got a phone interview with their recruiter, then one with the person I would be working for, then finally an on-site interview with him and a few more people. Apparently I impressed them, as they offered me the position. I accepted, and I start May 7th. I'm really looking forward to it, because it is something new for me (as a job), to do more c++ work rather than web development. Also my experience with working on microcontrollers for doing robots will hopefully be useful in this job as well.

There are two big projects I'm working on this summer. The first is the one Joe is more excited about doing, the "Defconbot" as we call it. Basically the goal is to make an autonomous robot that will shoot down white targets against a black wall. Joe is somewhat involved with helping out on the software side (he really wants to make 'cool' drawing for the targetting), although he is primarily doing all of the design and fabrication of the robot itself. For the gun, we bought an air compressor and are essentially making a blow gun. The plastic BB's will be loaded into a barrel, and compressed air will force it out of the barrel. The major mechanical point will be the feeder to get a single BB into the barrel at a time, and the valve to control when the air is on (as we don't want to waste air). Currently we're using an air sprayer as a valve to do the hand-testing, but ideally it will be some sort of electric valve, rather than something we make ourselves.

I'm mainly working on the software side of the project, since my mechanical & electrical engineering skills aren't as great as his, and I'm a much better programmer than him, and a cooler guy in general too. I wrote some software in C# that grabs the video stream from a webcam, detects the objects, and also some software that controls servos using the serial port. This will be used to aim the gun at the targets. The two pieces currently aren't hooked up together yet, as we don't have two servos powerful enough to hold the gun yet. However, here is a screenshot for those that are interested:

Defcon bot picture Defcon bot picture

The second project we're working on is our 30 pound combat robot named "Big Bloom." The concept is that it will spin in a circle using two wheels, and brake them at certain points in time so that it creates a translation across the arena when we want it to move. It is going to be controlled using bluetooth, and I have a few videos to show the progress on this. As usual, I'm doing the software side and he's doing the mechanical/electrical. Anyways, the first video is the initial test of getting the wireless signal to the microcontroller (using bluetooth). The second is similar to the first, only I have it controlling motors as well. The last video is a small prototype I made a long time ago to see if the motion is possible, and how difficult it is to do. It basically just goes in a straight line, then stops, then goes in another straight line -- this is all controlled by timers, so there's no remote control.

Control Prototype v1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjN8gnk0tL4

Control Prototype v2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY5oLoA00sU

Motion Prototype: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVSVHaN4iuE