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bigiain



Joined: 23 Jun 2011
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Tips for a Robowar newbie?

Hello all...

Anyone got some tips/links/hints for a potential new player of your game? Any pointers to where I should start reading/learning? Maybe good threads in here or blog posts or peoples project pages?

Where do I look for rules about Ant and Beetle weight bots?

Is there a list of dos and don't that new bot builders need to know about? Any place I can read a "rough categorisation" of the types of bots people have tried or are likley to turn up with, and perhaps some explanation of the advantages and disadvatages of various approaches?

I've got a bunch of RC servos and radios to use, and I'd love to come and do my best at not coming last against everyone else Wink

cheers,

Big

Post Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:12 pm 
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dyrodium
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Heya!
A great place to start will be our wiki http://www.robowars.org/wikka/BeginnersGuides
We recently put lots of new comprehensive tutorials up which will get you started! For ideas I would recommend checkout out all the build threads on this forum, as well as trawling youtube (hundreds of great robot videos!).

Good to know you've already got some RC gear, getting a bot working should be quite easy.

I think for general catagories the wikipedia page is quite handy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_combat

Regarding rules, we use the RFL rule set. Smile

Lastly lots of the builders on this forum use MSN so feel free to add us. Smile
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Post Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:41 pm 
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marto
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I posted RFL rule set in the Rules Section yesterday. Probably the first thing to read.

Also worthwhile is http://combots.net/guide-to-winning.php.

I wouldn't say wiki is quite comprehensive still a few blanks but really a good place to start.

Steve
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Post Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:53 pm 
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Vignesh



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Riobots has a good section on advantages and disadvantages of designs though i wouldnt rely too much on them. But they are a good overview.
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Post Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:40 pm 
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Dylon



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thread didn't stay clean for long :3 post move might be required Razz
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Post Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:18 pm 
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marto
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Any of the info useful?
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Post Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:27 pm 
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marto
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http://www.youtube.com/user/MartSard#p/u/17/9ibaEOpYPAg

http://www.youtube.com/user/MartSard#p/u/16/nVWZdTVhh2I

http://www.youtube.com/user/MartSard#p/u/15/E9EaenXANGQ

Some of the best I have seen.

Steve
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Post Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:50 pm 
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Nick
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Equipment research

Hi, its another thread hijack Smile. I am doing some research on tools for robot builders; here are some questions about test electronics.

What features and specifications are most useful in an oscilloscope for bot builders? What frequency response is high enough, bit resolution, number of channels, is a logic or spectrum analyser function worth paying for? Which are better value and performance - dedicated scopes or PC-based scopes?

What features and specifications are most useful in a multimeter? Is high accuracy really necessary? Are extra functions like capacitance and semiconductor tests worth paying for? Is a name brand meter like Fluke worth paying for when cheaper brands have the same functions for much less?

Last, what is your most used piece of electronic test gear (it doesn't have to be a meter or a scope)?

I am not looking for info on why model X is better than model Y, just the general sfuff about why you went for a particular feature or spec on your test gear.

This will eventually make it into a stroy about setting up a bot building workshop, so have a think about it and help out the new guys.

Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:53 pm 
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Spockie-Tech
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A *Big* question !

Primarily - what you look for when buying a scope depends on what you're going to do with it and for how long.

Think of it like a battery drill. If you are going to drill 10 holes this weekend, and then pop it in the shed until 9 months later, then a $25 bunnings cheapy will probably be fine and its less money to lose when you cant find the charger or discover the shed leaked on it 9 months later.

If you're a pro craftsman and are going to work your tools hard on a regular basis, then you spend some more and get stuff that is designed for hard regular use.

So with scopes, if you want to check a servo pulse, watch voltage ripple or other trivial functions like that once in a blue moon, then any el-cheapo laptop-usb scope with 1 channel and 10mhz will be fine.

If you are going to use it on a regular basis, then you will want *real* knobs and buttons.. not mouse-clicks.. think of it like an on-screen phone style keyboard or one that you click on with a mouse vs a real keyboard. to type the occasional message it might be ok, but not to write anything long. Buttons and Knobs are the same. Use it more than once a week and you will be glad you went for hardware and not software knobs.

If you expect to be able to dive into hacking brushless ESC's, designing FET bridges, or rolling your own custom microcontroller widgets, then you will want 20-50mhz bandwidth.. If you expect to be diving into high powered micro's or RF modulation stuff, then 100mhz + would be good (pricey though). If AVR/Pic/Arduino/Stamp micros are your plans, then 20mhz will cover it.

Logic/Spectrum Analysers are pretty advanced features. I cant see anyone who needs an "Introduction to Oscilloscopes Guide" needing anything like that any time soon.

Protocol Analysers (serial, USB, I2C, SPI etc) can be useful if you plan on going a bit deeper into Micro Land and want several widgets to be able to talk to each other without you having to guess what theyre saying between themselves.

Brand Names are for quality/reliability/accuracy/longevity. If you buy a hooflungdung co. scope or meter, dont count on it having a working life of more than a year or three.. you might get lucky, but then again you might not, and good luck finding them 5/10 years down the track. If its a semi-disposable scope (sub $500), then you might not care.

For Meters and other highly portable gear, toughness is what you want. Meters tend to get balanced on shelves, chucked in toolboxes, dropped into engine bays and all sorts of other abuse. a wimpy plastic one likely wont survive its first encounter with the floor. an imitation fluke-style plastic surround wont necessarily help much if its not designed well - it has to be good rubber, fit will, protect protrustions etc.

Accuracy ? Within 0.05v is close enough for hobbyist work. Certified Calibrations arent necessary unless youre doing aerospace/medical stuff or deep analog design.

Fancy functions ? 90% of measurements are voltage or resistance. another 5% are current. Everything else (cap, inductance, freq) are the last 5%. Thermocouple/Temp can be useful on occasion, but not often.

The most often used piece of gear (not "test gear through") is without doubt your Soldering Iron. Without it you cant do jack. The difference between "OK" and "Good" is huge. Dont Skimp on it. Get a Weller, Hakko, Micron or other brand that has been in the Biz for 10 years +. El Cheapo Brand Tips suck, oxidize quickly and evaporate leaving an awful surface. Result - Poor Joints full of crud, unpredictable heat transfer slowing down speed soldering and messy flux flows. Spend your $$ here first, Solder is the glue of electronics, if its not right, nothing will work.

After that, a Solder Sucker (got to be able to fix mistakes). If youre not going for a pricey power desoldering tool (electric vacuum pump), but for a hand model, there is only *1* name worth using. SoldaPullt. Stupid name I know, but ask any pro electronics person - Ive never heard anyone who has used one ever want anything else. Bonus Tip - Add a small length of ubernable pure silicon tube to the tip for a better flexy seal.

After that, its Meters, Scopes, Current Limited Adjustable Power Supplies. Bench Lights, Magnifying lens/lamp, small bench vise, tweezers (the self clamping type), Pin Drills, Wiring Pencil (an awesome recent addition to my toolbox), scalpel, the best damn quality sidecutters you can find. component draws, clipleads, pin files, crimps, auto-wire-strippers, breadboard, insulation tape, heatshrink, iso alcohol, soldering flux, a dremel & bits, etc etc.. Smile

Any more detail you would like ?
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Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:02 pm 
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marto
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For someone trying to start out the only essential items I think are a multimeter and a soldering iron.

Firstly a $20 meter these days will pretty much do everything you need. Although there is 1 extra feature which is worthwhile having, PWM duty cycle, I don't think I have ever used capacitance measurements. Or anything much other than resistance voltage and continuity. A good rugged meter is better but it won't do much more than your standard one.

The choice of soldering iron is also another big thing. I would generally recommend 2.
1 for electronics work which you take care of. And a large soldering iron for doing all the soldering of wires inside your robot. The larger one is actually probably more critical for starting out you are better off spending the extra cash on a good one for electronics later as brett said.

I don't really think anyone needs a scope for typical robot stuff unless you are doing ESC stuff.
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Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:28 pm 
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Jaemus
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I have actually used a multimeter to measure capacitance, but it was at work, using an expensive calibrated Fluke, and because i work on microwave ovens alot, and even then it was complete overkill Razz
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Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:10 pm 
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Nick
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Thanks guys! I was hoping for a few lines, its superb that you contributed so much. What I am writing up is more about general robotics, not just our combat bots. That might mean builders working with an array of different sensors, different interfaces like I2C, USB and CAN, and programming Arduino or higher end MCUs as wellas the mechanical stuff.

I was going to recommend a meter around $50 with a hold function and auto ranging; the less you have to fiddle with the gear, the more you can get done - that seems pretty much in line with what you recommended. I personally like a big back-lit display but that completely optional. My cheapo AC/DC clamp ammeter gets as much use as anything around the workshop. Non-contact DC current measurement is a bit specialised to active weapon builders, but its cheap enough to propose as a field meter IMHO

Interesting feedback about the scopes - I was always told to start with something that had twice the bandwidth of your highest frequency (probably the system clock in this case) and then look for reliability and a good trigger - that was why we all wanted to use Tek scopes back in the day.

Good point about the Solderpult - mine must be 15 years old and still working well.

Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:58 pm 
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marto
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Yeh well scope game has changed quite a lot in recent years with the advent of cheap chinese equipment. (Which actually works)

I have a Rigol DX job and a I have to say its pretty good. Not as good as a Tek scope but it was good enough for what I do.

As a general robotics tool I think a scope is nice but not essential. Serial comms will give you almost as much help debugging most of the time. Having said that it is very handy and there is a lot of things which you just couldn't do effectively without having access to one. ESC hacking would no have been possible without it however I rarely use a scope in most of my general robotics work these days.

I think we are going to see more and more hobby level robots moving to PC based controllers. This means that your scope really doesn't play much of a part and really isn't a lot of help diagnosing USB.

That being said I think as a hobby tool I would recommend one of the Rigol or Cheap Chinese scopes as a good starting point. I have had endless frustration trying to use PC based scopes and this is a nice compromise between cost and functionality.
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Post Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:53 pm 
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dyrodium
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During my 1 year of electronics apprenticeshipping I got 800 from the govt for tools. Out of all the crap I got the two things I use near constantly are the lindstrome side cutters and ideal multimeter.

With the meter, having an audible continuity is a blessing, plus you can 'hop up' a lower cost meter with some high quality parrot leads to make measuring sooo much easier (they just clip on, or you can use them as probes).

The sidecutter I own is a small 80-series and they cost almost $100... but have a lifetime guarantee and for proper electronics work, there's nothing worse than a crap sidecutter. You want the edge one down from a flush cut because they are a lot more likely to chip.
http://www.lindstromtools.com/images/8153_big.jpg

Obviously you keep the $6 supercheap crappo cutter close at hand to prevent any lazyness getting the better of you and trying to cut paperclips with it... Laughing
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Post Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:10 am 
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Valen
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I'd suggest for getting into robots get 2 (or more) $10 multimeters.
There's not much advantage to fancier ones and we use them "in the field" a fair bit so they are likely to get broken. They are accurate enough for what we do. I have an autoranging one and i find the autorange somewhat a meh feature.
It takes it a while to cycle through the ranges and you need to double check the scale to see that it is infact 24 volts not a 24 milivolt leakage your seeing.
Also when somebody tries to measure how many amps their battery pack has they wont feel too cut when it catches fire. (or measure how many amps the spark plug in their car uses, that is funny to watch btw, the 300V insulation works just well enough that it breaks down only where the persons hands are holding it, make sure your not drinking any beverages when watching somebody try this, also it breaks the meter)

Audible continuity is a must, even if you need to get a $20 meter to get it, make sure you have at least one meter that does it.

I've never really used anything outside of volts amps and resistance measuring. I use a precision current shunt ($10 @ jaycar) to measure high or unknown currents, not as handy as a clamp meter but cheap and accurate also you can use them with a scope to look at what the current is doing in real time.

Also buy or make some leads with aligator clips on, (handy for establishing a ground) and "pin hook" type probes are handy too.

Moving up from there, there are a number of iphone sized scopes floating around with decent sample rates http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10244 to enter or http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10388 (i think you can get this or a similar device for ~$100) that'll do 72mega samples per second.

Either one would be good enough to look at servo signals and brushless stuff, though the slower one wouldn't see any ringing.

If your doing development there are a few open source logic analysers floating about that are high speed, lots of inputs and have a moderate buffer size, They plug into the PC and the pc software can do things like decode I2C/serial comms etc which can be really handy. There is a closed source one that's around $150 from memory and its software decodes pretty much everything as i recall.

For robots and general electronics, i'd put the logic analyser above the need for a scope unless you start playing with building ESC's.
That said, i don't have one, but its going to be my next purchase ;->

My general philosophy is buy a wide assortment of cheap crap tools, if you break one or wear it out, replace that thing with a good quality item because you know you use it, and you haven't spent $200 on a tool you hardly ever use.

Also check out ebay, you can get some really nice older gear for the same price as a new item except its a 700mhz TEK vs a new noname 100mhz scope.
I have a 700mhz 4 channel tek and its come in handy to see bastard power spikes in supply lines causing switch inputs to trip intermittently.

(oh those rigols you can get the cheap one and do some software hack to make them run *way* faster ;->)
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Post Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:20 am 
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