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Chicago Area Robotics Group CHIBOTS: Chicago Area
Robotics Group


Rasmussen Room South - Schaumburg Public Library ChiBots met at the Rasmussen Room South, Schaumburg Public Library on April 8, 2001.

Everyone is welcome.

Some people just come to look and listen. Others bring interesting parts. And some bring complete robots.

The Schaumburg Public Library facilities are wonderful. There's always plenty of room.

Not a bad crowd for a beautiful spring day

Not a bad crowd for a beautiful spring day.

The other corner of the room

Click to see a movie of a typical open discussion
(Click the picture above to see a movie of a typical open discussion.)

Portions of the meeting follow a formal agenda. But, the first 15 minutes of the meeting are informal discussion and greeting. The meetings always end with show-and-tell, live demonstrations, parts swapping, and smaller-group conversations.

This particular meeting was probably the best ever. Plenty of people attended. There were lots of parts, projects, and robots for viewing. And Joe Fao premiered the hands-on tutorial segment.

Attentive audience for Joe

Hands-On Tutorial: Modifying Servo Motors

Joe Fao (center -- arms crossed) set the tone for tutorial presenters to follow. He was friendly and personable. The routine was well prepared and he welcomed questions throughout.

Joe brought his laptop with visuals and notes. He passed around lots of examples of servos. He handed out color documentation of servo parts and modification steps.

Joe (right) instructing Brian (sitting) on how to open a servo

Joe recruited Brian Schwartz (left -- sitting) from the audience. Brian was instructed on how to modify the servo for continuous rotation.

The servos, wheels, and lead weights on Joe's Critter-Crunch robot Future robot builder examining sample servos

Joe's Critter-Crunch robot, Pokey, runs on a pair of servos. The drive portion was passed around for closer examination. It was nice to see the educational atmosphere (right) that Joe's presentation established.

Everyone was very impressed with the tutorial. Not surprisingly, Joe received a hardy round of applause!

Jim Munro and his solar robots Jim's light-powered armada

Jim's Solar Armada

At the other end of the room, Jim Munro made his collection of BEAM robots available. Even under the dim lighting of a single lamp, the robots hopped, spun, and popped.

If you look closely at the picture on the right (above), the red robot just happened to pop. A close-up of the red robot appears below.

Popper and twister

Roller Close-up shot of collision detectors and front slide

Pictured on the above right, a robot with fairly effective collision detectors. It is possible to see the switch-contact bracket between the red LED and the cadmium-sulfide photocell at the far lower-left (and far upper-right) of the picture.

The front of the robot rests atop an arc of guitar wire. The wire is perfectly suited for robotics. It's readily available, consistent quality, with a firm-yet-springy characteristic.

Large roller

Roller-ball robots are entirely encased within a clear, plastic sphere. They rotate around an axis within the ball. The subsequent change in balance causes the ball to shift to a new position.

Notice the brass motor shafts are connected to the clear, spherical shell with suction cups. This roller has a rare set of handmade gearboxes from Dave Hrynkiw of Solarbotics.

Tripod Noisemaker
(Click the picture on the right to see a larger view of the bells and thumbtack feet.)

Jim put together a great variety of solar-powered robots. The bot pictured at left spins in a triangular motion due to a center motor surrounded by three capacitors.

On the right, a bell-jingling robot triggers on a FLED-engine (flashing LED). The thumbtack feet were soldered onto paper-clip legs using a special multi-core solder.


Despite not having a microcontroller or custom logic, this walking robot worked well. Because of the servos and physical effort required in moving, it isn't solar powered.

Click to see a movie of processor-less walking robot Click to see a movie of the walking robot actually carrying its power supply
Click to see a movie of hopping robot Click to see a movie of a solar-powered robot rotating towards the light
(Click any of the four pictures above to see movies.)

The movies above give a really good sense for the life Jim has sculpted.

The flag is a nice touch. The pole is made from guitar string
(Click the picture on the right to see a larger view of the flag, specifically the guitar-string pole.)

This flag is a nice touch. Again, notice the use of guitar string.

Tiny gearbox

It's difficult to tell scale, but this is a very small motor and gearbox. The gearbox ships covered with plastic, which Jim stripped off for display purposes. Sorry, the retail source is out of stock.

Hard-plastic battery snap

Jim found some nice hard-plastic 9 V battery snaps at Radio Shack. Anyone who's ripped up a standard thin-coated or cardboard flexible snap will appreciate these.

Top of Mike's spinning Critter-Crunch robot Underside of Mike's spinning Critter-Crunch robot

Critter Crunch Spinner

Mike Bakula is prototyping a spinning robot. He's borrowing heavily from the slot car racing hobby, with good results. The bottom portion of the robot (right photo) contains two halves of a colorful ping-pong ball for balance.

The individual motors and gears (photo below) are very fast, yet weigh only 1.9 ounces each.

Slot car racer bracket, motor, gears, and wheel

Beuhler (left) and Maxon (right) gearhead motors


John Orlando is planning on entering ChiBots' line following contest. He ran across some small Maxon gearhead motors at Marlin P. Jones & Assoc. Inc. (part #12810 MD). For a size comparison, notice the keys atop the photograph. Better order quickly, the Maxon motors aren't likely to be available for long.

A fantastic Handy Board HC11-based robot with IR remote control
(Click the picture on the right to see a larger view)

Autonomous Handy-Board Robot with IR Remote Control

Marcin T. Polewski demonstrated a fantastic robot based on a Handy Board. It has a Motorola 68HC11 processor, servos, light sensors, floor sensors, and an IR input.

The IR input is a definite asset as he programmed it to accept commands from a universal remote control. The robot moved smoothly as he stepped through various motions via a Sony-protocol modulated IR signal.

A great robot!

Certificate of Membership 2001

Official Membership

Vice-president and Treasurer, Jim Fiocca, created official membership certificates for all that pay their 2001 dues. Membership is $20 for the calendar year, which incorporates the individual and their entire family. Voting privileges and free contest entry, as well as pride of support, come with the membership.

Don't worry, all ChiBots events and meetings are open to everyone; no membership is required.

All Welcome! Please come to a future meeting... and bring a robot.

ChiBots Meeting Minutes for Sunday, April 8, 2001
by David Wooden

1. Members present at the meeting
John Patrick, President
Jim Fiocca, Vice President / Treasurer
David Wooden, Secretary
David Cook, Webmaster
Mike Bakula
Arthur Ching
Joe Fao
James H. Fisher
Tom Gralewicz
Don Kerste
Larry Maggiano
James Munro
John Orlando
Brian Schwartz
Mike Gielow
Leo Sarokin
Marcin Polewski

2. Agenda

  1. Call to order
  2. Introductions (if any new people)
  3. Old Business
    1. Collect Membership dues ($20)
      This will be the first of MANY times you can pay these dues.
    2. Line following & Sumo contest
    3. Critter Crunch video (?)
    4. DucKon Critter Crunch info
  4. New Business
  5. Technical Presentation
    Mr. Joe Fao will present a short demonstration on how to modify model servos for robotic uses. Several brands will be shown.
  6. Show and Tell

3. Introductions

Mike Gielow
Leon Sarokin
(Marcin Polewski introduced himself later during the Show and Tell section.)

4. Old Business

A. Collect dues
Jim Fiocca is collecting the $20.00 annual dues. Paid members can enter contests and vote in elections. Everyone is always welcome at the meetings, free of charge.

B. Line following & Sumo Contest
David Cook has created an Illustrated Guide to American Robot Sumo Rules and posted it on the website. The first Line Following Demonstration / Trials will be held at the next monthly meeting on May 20.

C. Critter Crunch Video
The Critter Crunch video was not shown due to lack of equipment, lack of video and lack of time.

D. DucKon
We will be hosting the next Critter Crunch event, to be held at the DucKon Convention on May 19 at the Lisle Hyatt Regency Hotel. More information about the convention is available at Joe Fao is coordinating the event and has arranged a reduced rate for Critter Crunch participants. Let Joe know if you would like to attend, as he needs to know ahead of time in order to get the reduced rate. Email him directly at The event will run for about 1 1/2 hours. There are two classes: 2 lb. and 20 lb. The robots face each other in an 8-foot by 8-foot arena. The rules are available at

5. New Business

Tom Gralewicz suggested a ChiBots T-shirt, and offered to have the shirts made. A new logo is needed for ChiBots. Submissions are being accepted. The winner will get a free T-shirt and a set of small tank-track drives such as those used on Tomís Critter Crunch robot.

6. Technical Presentation: Servo Modification, given by Joe Fao

The focus of this presentation was the modification of servos in order to provide continuous rotation. This involves disassembling the servo, removing physical stops, inserting a fixed resistor (trimmer pot) in place of the feedback pot, and reassembly. Joe brought in three different makes of servos: Hitec, Airtronic and Futaba. Brian Schwartz performed the modification of the Hitec servo at Joeís direction.

7. Show and Tell

Jim Munro brought in several B.E.A.M. robots. These are small solar powered devices that follow light. Jim also had his Firefighting robot on hand.

David Cook and Brian Schwartz showed the Tachometer / Temperature board that David designed for Brianís battle robot.

Marcin Polewski showed his Line Follower made from Lego parts and the Handy Board controller. The robot could be controlled by a TV Remote control.

Mike Bakula - showed a 2 lb. Spinning robot for Critter Crunch using slot car motors.

John Orlando pointed out the availability of several gear motors.

Tom Gralewicz showed some NiCd battery packs and PIC chips.

John Patrick brought in one side of the drive train of Fusion, his heavyweight battle robot.

8. Close

Following the close of the meeting was the usual talk, swapping and some 2 lb. Critter action.