Updated video

May 2, 2007 at 3:06 am

Another little video after we put it the components on a ‘frame’ and got some decent motors for it. There’s no mixing on the remote (so up-down controls one motor, left-right controls the other), so it’s really hard to drive. This is also filmed on Joe’s awesome camera he got for his graduation present, so it’s a lot higher quality than the other videos.

Overdue Update

April 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm

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

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:

Control Prototype v2:

Motion Prototype:

First Place, Oh ya!

January 15, 2006 at 7:36 am


I went to Marin Ant Wars V yesterday and got first place in the antweight division. I went undefeated, thoroughly defeating (and destroying) some the best bots in the competition. We even saw a rainbow on the way back. After I got home, I laid down and got a full night’s sleep, which I haven’t got in 2 weeks. Yesterday was a good day.

It was a lot of work making the robot.. er making Joe make the robot. He went to the event also with his robot Ground Clearance, getting fourth place (although would’ve done stronger if he hadn’t lost a judges decision in a match I thought he won. Oh well. Hopefully videos of the event will be up soon (on the MAW website) for those interested.

I haven’t really done much the rest of my winter break though. I’ve been pretty lazy. My dad came into town over the break, and I visited with him and did the whole Chrismas thing. I worked with Joe on our robots for the event. I worked on Fortress Forever some, and did some consulting for a web site (i.e. making stuff and them paying me money for it, not really giving advice). School is starting next week so I have to prepare myself for that (ugh). Unfortunately, it’s got some of the classes I put off till the end because I don’t want to do them. I’m taking History (ugh!), Spanish (double ugh!), Stats (ugh!), Senior Project (UGH!!), and a computer graphics class (yay!). Hopefully I don’t get too sick of school this semester, and I pass all my classes.

Programming up a storm

December 3, 2005 at 2:35 am

Note: I just erased the whole thing I typed out, so I have to start this over again. It was much better the first time 🙁

I’ve spent a lot of time coding lately. It’s probably because I want to procrastinate on my sociology assignment (read a book by final exam) and my philosophy assignment (write a 5-7 page paper on an “outside topic” in philosophy, and use a book as the source). Both of those are due in 2 weeks, so you might understand my want to procrastinate.

On Monday, I slept through my stats class (ya I know.. shame on me..) and decided to work on Fortress Forever. One thing lead to another, and I ended up working on it for about 10 hours writing code in c++ and using the tools and helping another team member get models into the game. One positive thing is I got a lot of stuff done. I guess I should hope so if I spent so much time on it :). The capture the flag rule set is completed and I got the sentry gun code to rotate 360 degrees, which is always a plus.

On Tuesday, I went to all of my classes and got home and chose to work on an addon for WoW for my guild to help distribute the items from bosses that we defeat in a more timely manner. This was my first decent-sized addon I made, so I decided to use the Ace framework to make it a bit simpler. The addon code is written in lua, so it’s nice to learn all the intracicies of another programming language. Lua is pretty nice because it treats functions as a base level object so it makes some stuff a little clearer than when doing the same type of things in other languages.

On Wednesday, my alarm woke me up so I made it to my stats class on time and went to my job and mainly worked on a PHP script that imports the phone numbers from a daily report we get emailed to us. I wrote it a long time ago, and apparently it stopped working. In the past, this usually meant that the server that ran it every day forgot to do it, or something like that. In which case, I can just restart the service or turn the scheduled program back on which is simple to do. However, the mail server got upgraded or something (that’s my best guess at least) and the format of the emails had changed. My strategy to get the data from the emails in the past had been to just blindly read the entire mail and grab the information I needed. However, the upgrade caused attachments to be encoded, so I actually needed to strip out the attachments from the email and read them properly. It was a pain to do, but I eventually figured out how to do that propery and I ended up making something pretty robust, so I was pretty proud of myself. Later that night when I got home, I did a bit of work on a side job in PHP which I had done some parsing stuff for as well. Tonight I worked on the user interface stuff for it and got a bit done.

Thursday, I actually decided to play some WoW with guild. We had some attendence problems early on, but we filled up a little bit towards the end. We had some good attempts at defeating the boss we were stuck on this week, but eventually we ran out of an item needed to beat him so we called it a night. Afterwards I remembered I had an assignment due for my computer science 139 class (operating systems), so I started that up. I had a lot of it already thought out in my head, so it was a simple matter of writing it out and getting it done… and remembering exactly how to compile shared objects in linux. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took me longer to realize I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, than to do the entire rest of the assignment. With that done, I submitted it via email and read some web pages and went to sleep.

Today was the exception though. I opened the fortress forever code up when I got home and poked around at it a little but didn’t really do anything. I also opened up Eclipse and looked at the java code for the game programming class I’m in, but didn’t get anything done there either. Afterwards, I signed onto wow and played a while. We were really having membership problems and after a few hours finally defeated a boss that we usually beat on the first or second try. We did it with 30 people, and we usually try to get 40. We were a bit demoralized (and the second boss is really difficult), so we decided to call it a night. I spent the rest of the night looking at web pages and such. I opened up the side job PHP stuff again and did a little bit of work, but not very much. I guess I was burnt out from doing so much coding during the rest of the week. If I had’ve worked on my game programming assignment, I could say I did significant work on projects in 5 different languages on 5 different days. Alas, I didn’t, so I can’t. I still did a lot of productive stuff, so I’m happy for that.

In other news, I found out that the next antweight robot event is in January at Andy’s place in Marin. I’m looking forward to finishing the new version of my robot and eating the incredibly good food they have at the event. Hopefully I’ll even do good in the tournament and not get my robot tore up like at the last event.

RFL Nationals

November 18, 2005 at 12:05 am

I’ve recently got over a bit of business I had recently, so I have time to write one of these things now. My last week, I procrastinated and finally finished my robot for the RFL Nationals in San Francisco, which I qualified for a while back. I planned on making a new frame for it, and using the new drum that Joe is making me, but since I procrastinated that didn’t happen. Instead, we replaced the lid and the supports to keep the drum from hitting the ground.

Finished with the robot late on Friday, I attempted to get a bunch of hours of sleep in before driving out on Saturday to attempt to be there by 10ish. I was helping run the insect weight divisions of the tournament (the 150 gram, 1 pound, and 3 pound) in the smaller arena, so I needed to be there early to sign everyone up that wanted to go. Things went pretty smoothly aside from me accidentally clicking on the delete button instead of the edit button to change someone’s name since I made a typo. I fixed that up and things ran pretty smoothly. The arena was much better than at the last event in San Francisco which was nice.

The actual competition part for my robot wasn’t until later in the day, so I watched a bunch of the bigger robots compete, and it was a lot of fun. Lots of robots got destroyed, and that’s pretty much what I came to see, so I was happy. It came time for me to fight, and I got a bit nervous like I always do in my first fight. I went against a VDD clone (vertical disk.. like a sawblade) and one good weapon to weapon hit knocked him into the air and disabled him. The fight ended pretty fast, and I wanted to get a bit more action for the crowd, but alas, a win is a win.

My second fight in the night was against Steve (from sac state too) and his robot Fusible Link. Steve’s robot is similar to my old one in that it is pretty much indestructable, but with the difference that his is pretty fast too. My drum isn’t quite as powerful as I’d like it to be, so he outdrove me and I wasn’t able to do any real damage to him so he won. This kind of bummed me out, but oh well.

The drive home was fairly amusing because I was a bit tired and over-hyper like I am when I get that tired, so things that weren’t really funny became incredibly funny. For example, there was a sign that said “Cummings Blvd – 4 miles” or something similar, and all I could do was point at it and laugh. Joe laughed too, which made it all the funnier. However, the traffic was horrible for the first little bit. I guess there was some accident, and it caused the trip to take an hour longer than I wanted it to. We stopped at In-n-out on the way, had some food, and got some gas while the traffic got a bit better, and I finally got home around midnight after dropping Joe off.

The next day, the antweight fights were supposed to start at 10. It takes around 2 hours to get to the event in San Francisco, so I left around 8. This left me with getting much less sleep than I wanted to, especially for a weekend. Anyways, I found my other friend Zach’s place with a little bit of help and we went. Joe couldn’t come because he was having his birthday dinner or something with his parents, so Zach came with me instead. I got there a bit before the matches started and set up my computer for the brackets so people could look at them, then went into the pit area and put my stuff away (thanks Andy for letting me use part of your table). When I came back, I ran the fights for a while and then got to go myself. I went against another fast wedge named Kato, and lost as I usually do against him, with any of my robots. I had followed advice from Steve and trimmed down the supports on the front, but this caused the drum to hit the ground and it made it impossible to drive, and Kato to get an easy win.

With two losses, I was out of the tournament, so I proceded to run the brackets and enjoy the rest of the event since I didn’t have any stress of having to compete. There were a bunch of good fights in the bigger weight class, namely where a 220 pound robot got thrown over the I-beam, bounced off of it, then hit the robot that threw it and broke the major piece off of it. It’s kind of scary in a way since the robot that hit the wall is capable of ripping pieces of other robots and throwing the pieces into the wall with enough force to put a hole in the arena walls.. and it actually directly hit. Luckily it didn’t do too much damage to the wall and fights continued. I didn’t take any pictures of the event unfortunately, so I can’t post any.

On Monday I went to school and work and got back later in the day and the guy on my team for the game programming class I’m in at Sac State told me the assignment was due Tuesday. This kind of sucked since I thought it was due on Thursday. I sent a message to the other guy on the team and told him to finish his part up, and I finished up my part that night and went to sleep. The next day it wasn’t completely finished, so I stayed at the lab at school and worked on the project with the other guys. We finally figured out the retarded problem the code had and submitted it just before the time it was due. I’ll let it be known I hate Java. Java is the devil :(.

I got some really good sleep Tuesday night since everything is pretty much done so I can relax. Wednesday was a normal Wednesday.. went to school and work, then school again and went to Chipotle with Zach and Joe. Mmmmm.. Chipotles is sooo good. When I got home, I watched this weeks episode of Lost. Wow. That show is so good as well. Chipotles and Lost, a really good combination 😀

Today, my dad got back in town, and he got me an embroidered shit with my website on it, which was really cool. He also brought back this CD which is a swing/jazz CD with covers of a bunch of songs and I’m listening to it as I type this up. It’s pretty awesome so far, so I’ll have to finish listening to it in the car tomorrow on the way to my statistics test. Maybe it’ll make me smarter and make me get an A on it.. well, I can hope at least 🙂