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PQ Robotics Club

National University's engineering department now has an user group that is dedicated to the art and science of physical computing or more commonly called robotics. This page captures NURG activities and projects. The group meeting the third Friday each month at 5 p.m. in the NU engineering building on Aero Court. To contact the group, please us the comments page here on this site and state in the topic NURG.


National University Robotics Group 21 Nov Meeting Minutes

Location: Nat Univ, Aero Court Engineering Bldg at 5:00pm - mit pizza and Coke

The RGNU continuing investigation of all things that go bump in the night, especially if you failed to turn off your bot. Based on Jeremy Blum's book Exploring Arduino. (Later: Raspberry Pi and onward)

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Joe Sears gave a comprehensive presentation about underwater robotics competition held each year at the Point Loma Navy Facility. After the presentation, the group discussed the future direction the group should take. There are basically two camps. One to focus the group on building a robot for the underwater competition or continue to study robotics as an academic pursuit, building up general knowledge to come up with individual projects to demo before the group.

The school wants to showcase student activity with a competition and focus on a group project as the path the RGNU should pursue.

This surprised me and virtually left what I hoped to be a valuable experience for everyone without a mission or support. As a result, I will have to withdraw from my presentations in lieu of the group kick starting a robotics project to build an underwater bot to place in competition at the Navy facility when completed under the direction of Joe Sears. So Joe will be leading the discussions in the future.

There was some discussion of starting up a day time series that would allow me to continue working through the Exploring Arduino book and continuing into the Raspberry Pi processor as general robotics sessions. I hope this works out, because we barely got started with learning the ins and outs of the Arduino. So until those sessions are organized, I will continue to work on my own projects.

So this is the last of the RGNU representation thru this website. There is a new forum that the group has generated to take over these pages. This is probably a much better form to keep activities and comments flowing. I enjoyed getting the group started, but group competitions are not for me. I can't put in the time to fund raise and work away from the path I'm on. So I will start another group in the North County that is more interested in learning about technologies that can be applied by the individual for their own projects.


National University Robotics Group 17 Oct Meeting


The RGNU was held at the Aero Court campus at 5 p.m. to continue the journing of learning and using physical computing from Jeremy Blum's book Exploring Arduino.

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The text being used initially is Jeremy Blum's, "Exploring Arduino", Wiley, 2013.

There was a general review of the experiments last meeting and the software to make them work.

Chapters 3 and 4 concerns the analog world around us and how we must digitized sensor signals to be able to write a digital program to read and use the information to do useful work. There are many, many sensors that can be experimented with, but all have their own spec-sheet in common that we need to learn to read and understand to successfully use the various sensors correctly. This is a discipline that starts with your very first project.

I'll introduce the Arduino IDE monitor that is part of the IDE support software and provides a way to send messages to the Arduino from your computer screen over the USB port and a window to read messages sent from the Arduino to create a Human Machine Interface (HMI). Later we will learn how to build all sort of HMI devices.

We used a temperature sensor and in a separate demeo, used a photosensor to create an analog input for the softare. This varying signal was compared to set point to turn on a colored LED first to indicate cool, normal, then hotter range of the temp sensor, and later the photosensor to turn on an LED in dark conditions and off in light conditions.

This meeting's focus was on Chapter 4 to further study how to control a DC motor using a microcontroller. This, of course, is an essential step in robotics. We will also demonstrate the special case of the servo motor as it is used in a project that tracks a light source. The idea being to create a solar tracker.

Details of how an H-bridge works and demo-ing a DC brushed motot to drive a sled back and forth on a track was used as a model for the software control. With a cleverly designed motor controller board you only need three signals, one for each direction (CW, CCW) and a speed signal that is PWM to vary the duty cycle of the power being delivered to the motor.

Click here to see the slides that were presented.


National University Robotics Group First Meeting - 19 Sept

Arduino Microcontroller Front and Center

The NURG met at the Aero Court campus at 5 p.m. to start the journing of learning and using physical computing.

MORE ABOUT the meeting (collapse)

The text being used initially is Jeremy Blum's, "Exploring Arduino", Wiley, 2013.

Anna Tanguma opened the session telling us how to form the group to match NU guidelines, which we have now done. Professor Ali Frahani is the group's lead and is carrying the administrative duties so far. We will have officers and become more formal over time. But the main focus is learning about how robotic projects work.

Our tech guide for the meetings is adjunct professor John(Jack) Wolf whose background is electrical engineering and who has taught several microprossor, networking, and electrical courses at NU. Jack picked up working with several microcontrollers as a hobby in the last three years and has concluded the Arduino family of devices is the best to get started and in fact covers most of what is needed to successful complete many varieties of robotics projects.

This first session, Jack demoed the projects in the book up to page 35. The code to download the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) was used to manipulate breadboard components via an Arduino Uno microcontroller to turn on an LED, use a pushbutton to cause the LED to be turned on and off and how to "debounce" a button or relay contact to avoid confusing the software with multiple logic changes on the I/O pin.

Pulse-Width Modulation was explained to vary the apparent intensity of the LED. In the process of setting up a PWM controlled LED, use of pull-up (or pull-down) resistors, analog inputs, and several C++ code statements were introducted. See the slides (some new material here as well), click here.

The Arduino family uses a professional level IDE based on C++. The "main()" function and several classes are actually working in the background, which makes the IDE very easy to use and understand from first time use. The Arduino.h class encapsules the normal C++ main() function and has methods so the Arduino pin-out can be programmed and manipulated with easy to use statements like pinMode(pin3, OUTPUT);, which says pin 3 will be use in this program (called a sketch in Arduino parlance) as an digital output(either made HIGH or LOW). The IDE has three areas that every sketch addresses. First is an area to define variables, a method called setup(), which is used to initialize the project, and the loop(), which is the polling interval activity the sketch will be doing over and over unless stopped at some point. These are the essential ingredients, but interrupts can be define along with adding any number of user defined functions. But this is all the is needed to run all the various Arduino projects.

The next session will move much faster by building on each project already accomplish, i.e., if a button is needed, we already know how to debounce the input, we know how to use 'if' statements and 'for' statement, and how to set up and run a sketch to include uploading the sketch to the microcontroller board and running the program. In the next session we will work with analog inputs and do more controlling via the software. Hope to see you there.