Trying to make sense of it all

Today we are tackling the installation of the VL53L0X Time-of-Flight (ToF) laser-ranging sensor modules. The plan is to use five in total, with one up front and two on each side. 

These have been incorporated into the front and rear bumpers to try and save space and this seems to put them at just the right height for what we're aiming for. 

We are yet to wire them all up, but that should come soon. We're expecting to need these for all of the autonomous challenges, so they are a vital part of the build.

Laser Pointer - Batteries Included, but not Required

One of the improvements we wanted to make this year, was to the laser pointer we used for our cannon. I had the bright idea of buying one last year that had a cross hair, I thought this would really help with aiming, it didn't. It was next to useless as you could barely see it on the targets (see below).

So, the cross hair one had to go and I've opted for something a little more conventional.
Below you'll see I managed to find one on eBay for just under £2.00. Of course despite it being listed as coming from the UK, it came from China, but to be fair it was here in just over a week, so I'm not too fussed.
 

I wanted to be able to turn the pointer on and off remotely and to have it powered from the robot. So we set about dismantling it and working out which components we needed to keep and which ones we could discard. The following photo was taken after I'd already started soldering the wires on, I remembered half way through that I was supposed to be blogging about this :)

As it happens, we managed to discard most of it, including the white LED, the buttons, key ring and of course, the batteries. Soldering new wires onto the board was quite fiddly and I manged to damage a surface mount resistor in the process, but this was quickly resolved with a through hole resistor used inline. 

We cut the aluminium tube down a little and finished it all off with a little white heat shrink tubing, just to make it look pretty.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with this little modification. Granted I've not done anything ground breaking here, but it's a definite improvement over the aiming method we had last year. Will it help us hit 100% of the targets this year? Who knows, I guess we'll find out.

Build Update - Bumper Edition

We've tried to give our robot a reasonable amount of ground clearance, but this has created a slight issue when it comes to mounting our VL53L0X Time-of-Flight ranging sensors, if we mount them to the body they'll sit too high and might end up looking over the walls in some of the challenges, this is clearly far from ideal. 

Another possible issue that I foresee is damage to the little gearboxes on the micro metal gear motors that we use. These little gearboxes are pretty fragile at the best of times, but we've opted for larger wheels this year, putting even more strain on them. I don't think it would take many bumps into a wall to cause problems. 

So, how do we solve these issues? Well, hopefully we've solved them with a single solution, Bumpers. 

The thought process behind this is we install bumpers to protect the wheels and gearboxes against collision damage and we make end caps for the bumpers which we can then mount the sensors to.  

Will they work as planned? Who knows, but there's only one way to find out. 

New Year Update 2020

And we're back. 

Things have been hectic at Team Currington HQ but we've still managed to get quite a few things done on the robot, we've just not managed to post about it, until now. This was also compounded by the fact that I (Matt) have been kinda taking a break from social media and the like. 

Anyway, over the past few days we've been working on adapting and modifying the cannon. We've managed to mount it on top of the robot for this year, some of you may remember that we made a little trailer for it last year and towed it along when it was needed. 

For this year we are looking to refine the controls and even automate part of the aiming process. We're also looking to replace the laser pointer with one you can actually see. 

We're also looking to re-print most of it and tidy up a few things.