Internet Robotic Engineering

Hey, just a little opinion piece about the engineering process.
I've made a few posts on here, and some people received them well, other not
so well.
Over my career I've worked in many engineering groups. I generally enjoy the give and take of debating the aspects of various ideas. It is a process where people state opinions, sometimes strongly, sometimes not so much, sometimes over the top. Sometimes arguments break out and tempers even flair! The important thing is that you don't take it personally, stick to your opinions if you think you are right, and try to hear what the people are saying. In the end, offer kind words and head out for a beer at the end of the day.
This is the process where most all the greatest projects have come from. Challenging ideas with which you do not agree and defending your ideas, when challenged make you really think about the ideas. The challenger finds faults, and your defense requires that you think of the asserted faults and consider things you may not have thought of.
When I post questions and ideas on this news group, I want you to think of this post. I am inviting people who read the posts to engage in the engineering process.
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Newsgroups and mailing lists are of fundamental importance for my project, since my lack of experience on the robotics and electronics fields. When I post questions, I harvest the good responses, reply on the ones that are interesting and ignore the nonsense or flamed ones.
Padu
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Padu wrote:

That is different than I was trying for, I was looking for more of an open source collaboration.
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"mlw" wrote:

The way I see, open source efforts are only successful when the people involved is really motivated to get the "thing" done, and the scope of the project is not too big. In the case of this newsgroup, the full scope is too big, as JGCASEY prompted, and people will shift motivation from topic to topic as they progress on their robots. But that's only the way I see.
Cheers
Padu
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Here's an open source linux based collaboration:
http://oap.sourceforge.net/index.php
No, it is not a $500 solution. The second specific project goal is:
"Minimize cost. It should be possible to build a robot for around the price of a PC (target: US$1,500 to $2,000). Consumer grade hardware components are to be used in preference to professional grade products."
Joe
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mlw wrote:

Many post to get solutions rather than express opinions.
The other thing I noticed was levels of expertise vary greatly and if you are not at the same level, which I am not when it comes to your expertise in programming, there is not much that can be exchanged.
In robotics there are really three areas involved, mechanics, electronics and computer programming and people vary in their interest in each topic. With programming I think there are levels of interest as well, such as your PID control or the software for a two wheel balancing robot and at the other end some advanced AI implementations.
For example I would be happy to buy the mechanics and electronics for the basic robotic base but would like an *easy* programming interface to the robot as I think this is where all the creative work is to be done. Or at least where you can tailor the machine to your liking.
The other issue is size of robot. A cheap small robot with a simple brain vs a larger robot that has the potential to vacuum, clean walls, deliver the food, collect the rubbish, water the plants, etc etc. I am interested in the large robot and at this stage I am looking for a suitable base which I think will be an electric wheelchair as it has the mechanics, control electronics and power.
-- JC
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JGCASEY wrote:

I think I usually express opinions in order to elicit feedback and other opinions. Feedback, good or bad, can be very helpful.

It may be true that I know more about the virtual memory architecture of the Intel type processor than you, but sometimes, a fresh opinion sheds light on something otherwise unobserved.

That's where I think the greatest amount of misconception is. Yes, Mechanics, electronics, and programming are all involved, but it is a merging of all three. I consider myself a very good software developer, a mediocre electronics guy -- I can pass but not a pro, and as for mechanics, well, I can tell the difference between a 10/24 and a 10/32 machine screw.
I can can argue a range of specific topics, and would be considered, professionally, as an expert in a few, but robotics is so broad that there is still a lot of room for raw creativity over expertise.

See that's an interesting point, my PID control essay is part of a project to make a simple robot that will enable people to do more interesting things. The robot itself, intentionally, is pretty uninteresting, but what may be built on top of it may become interesting.

That, is *exactly* my objective with the $500 robot.

Then, the $500 robot project is intended for you :-)

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mlw wrote:

Mmmm. Not so sure. If the programming isn't easy to learn and use it will be of limited value to all but professionals or advanced IT students or hobbyists without another life beyond programming.
Call for ideas 1 From: mlw Date: Thurs, Mar 16 2006 12:58 am comp.robotics.misc
"The system will be message based and object oriented. There will be two types of objects, senders and receivers, Each receiver object will have a single message handler and messages will be standardized and extensible. The best analogy I have is the "DefWindowProc" in the MS Windows API. A sender object may be a sensor or input mechanism."
Sounds complicated and scary already!
Somehow I think a electric wheel chair will give a robot base a wider range of capabilities than your ride on toy base will offer. I just have to find a cheap but working wheelchair to plonk my PC on :-)
-- JC
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JGCASEY wrote:

I just picked up one of these:
<http://www.pridemobility.com/Products/Jet/Jet3Ultra/jet3ultra.asp
for about $400, used, at a thrift store. It looks perfect. Differentially steered, the seat lifts off and leaves the base as a separate unit. Ideal place to mount things. You can also detach the joystick and drive the base around. The joystick has a three-pin XLR looking connector under a small access panel with the intriguing lable "PROGRAM".
Only down side is that it's pretty heavy, about 100 lbs without the seat, so doing development work with it is likely to be a pain for one person. Otherwise, way cool.
It's also a blast to drive. just as a wheel chair.
best, dpa
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JGCASEY wrote:

Well, *all* things sound complicated when you explain how they work, when you are given a clean API and a set of practical examples, things become easier.

Well, what you don't see is that *everything* on the $500 robot is directly applicable to your wheel chair. Dual opposed motor drive and PC computer. Hell, all you "really" need is a USB and a PS/2 port. Plug it into your laptop if you want.
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not
This is the most helpful newsgroup I have ever seen!
But once in a while I just have to filter out the idiots that seem to live merely to put down others and make themselves feel superior through that process. Frankly, they make *me* feel superior and sometimes give me a good laugh at how serious they can get regarding what are sometimes seriously fubar topics.
I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to develop some social skills by interacting on a geeky, nerdy, newsgroup. Yet, the lesson I have learned is that some people are idiots; some people are genuine; and some people may actually think they are helping, but just don't have a socially acceptable way of presenting thier views.
And every once in a while, someone, like me, will be looking at a metalworking newsgroup but instead post a question to the sci.image.processing newsgroup asking how to adjust a metal cutoff saw!
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I agree. If someone with a good solution to a problem gets "flamed" for his/her post just because the "flamer" isn't open-minded enough, hasn't done it that way, or has seen that solution before, the "flamee" may not respond to future questions. Even if the original post doesn't have a good solution, an honest response is always welcome. If you've seen that solution before, discard it. No harm... no foul...
This forum has been great for me as a novice with robotics to see other peoples concerns, etc. I've learned a lot from it for my own robotics work. I've even been able to extend some of the applications to non-robotic work. For the most part, the people responding here are very good at controlling their tempers.
If I understand the original poster's statement concerning the "engineering process", a good engineer will always entertain new ideas from all kinds of sources. This newsgroup (and others) is a great source of experience from all around the world.
Dave
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