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Chicago Area Robotics Group CHIBOTS: Chicago Area
Robotics Group


ChiBots opened the new year with a lively meeting at the Schaumburg Public library. Attended by close to 30 people, the ChiBots meeting was presided over by Scott Williamson as the new president and Tom Gralewicz returning as the vice-president.


It was agreed that there would be four contests held in April for Basic and Advanced Line Following, along with mini-sumo and solaroller (BEAM drag racing). The goal eventually is to have three or four line-following contests per year, to give everyone a chance to compete in at least one event.


Dan Mannisto gave a fascinating presentation on CAN, a network for embedded systems. Usually used in automobiles, where the failure of one area should not affect the rest of the system and where many messages can be prioritized and sent at up to 1000 kBits per second. The advantages and possibilities in robotics were discussed.


Eddy Wright brought in the innards of a $10 R/C car from Jewel. A breadboard with a circuit on it to control LED's (could be replaced with motors) are controlled by the tiny receiver. A cable controlled car that had been modified with the receiver from the small car was also shown.

Tom Gralewicz brought his BattleBot, TUSK, which also competed in the MechWars competition, and some high torque servo motors for Dale Smith's robotic lawn mower. Also, he had his Critter Crunch competitor, Splat, at the meeting. Critter Crunch is like a much smaller version of BattleBots, held at the sci-fi convention, CapriCon. If you come, be prepared to pay $35 for admission.

Ray Alderman brought two pods from his BattleBot, which survived up to the rumble. They were high quality, yet were made with only portable hand tools! He also had a lightweight robot with a welded frame. He got two Hawker Genesis batteries for only $15! each at American Science and Surplus (a quick check on their site revealed that they are available for $15.95 each, 24 VDC and 13 Ah). He also had his line follower, hacked from a toy R/C bulldozer form Toys 'R' Us. Ray also had a couple of homemade battery packs with him.

Al Schilling brought a very interesting robot, RoboWoody. Made entirely out of wood, it resembles a human being and, with the aid of five servos, moves it's arms and legs in a very convincing manner. It's eyes blink and a yellow LED provides a "heartbeat." It's brain is the BASIC Stamp and has a nice wooden base to stay on.

John Orlando brought his vision-based line-follower, Eye-Bo, as well as a three-wheeled, three-motored robot base. Instead of using differential drive, it moves by way of turning on a combination of the motors to head directly to its destination. Also, he brought in some PCBs for a two-motor motor driver. At that point, the discussion turned to a new PCB layout software, featuring, among other things, 3-D layout. It is available for free this month at, and will be around $600 later.

David Cook brought in his unique solar-powered line-follower. Featuring incredibly small 1 Farad aerogel capacitors, it ran consistently in the corner under the light of a single lamp during the rest of the meeting. An advantage to the solar-powered idea is that it was so slow that it never ran off the track.

Don Kerste brought in the subject of the last technical demonstration on the co-processor idea. Utilizing the PIC 17873 as the co-processor and a BASIC Stamp as the main processor (though right now it is only used to load data into the PIC), it moved about the room for the rest of the meeting avoiding obstacles such as chairs, tables and people's legs.


As always, the end of the official meeting was followed by a lot of conversation and demonstrations.

We hope to see you at the next meeting!