During our trip out to Vegas for Defcon, we were lucky enough to catch up with a few of the companies that should be of interest to Hackaday readers. One of the companies based out of the area is Pololu, makers and purveyors of fine electronics and robots. In an incredible bit of lucky scheduling, LV Bots, the Las Vegas area robot builders club, was having an event the same weekend we were there. A maze challenge, no less, where builders would compete to build the best robot and write the best code to get a pile of motors and electronics through a line-following maze in the fastest amount of time.
The LV Bots events are held in the same building as Pololu, and unsurprisingly there were quite a few Pololu employees making a go at taking the stuff they developed and getting it to run through a maze. At least one bot was based on the Zumo kit, and a few based on the 3pi platform. Interestingly, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was the brains of quite a few robots; not extremely surprising, but evidence that the LV Bots people take their line-following mazes seriously and are constantly improving their builds.
Each robot and builder ‘team’ was given three runs. For each team, the first run is basically dedicated to mapping the entire maze. A carefully programmed algorithm tries to send the robot around the entire maze, storing all the intersections in memory. For the second and third runs, the bot should – ideally – make it to the end in a very short amount of time. This is the ideal situation and was only representative of one team for that weekend’s event.
The worst case scenario is a bot that doesn’t quite have the proper mapping algorithm down. For example:
If, however, a robot can figure out all the nodes in the line following map, the second and third runs can go by pretty quick:
The folks at LV Bots put together a recap of the entire competition as well:
Although I did arrive a bit after normal working hours, [Ryan] and [Kevin] were kind enough to take me around their shop for a small tour of the joint. It’s more or less what you would expect: one giant room with pick and place machines, giant ovens, solder paste dispensers, enough equipment for all the testing and rework, and a giant wall of filled with all their products. One of the more interesting pieces of equipment was a soldering robot. Yes, as in a robot with a soldering iron. Here are the pics:
Being after hours, the machines were not running. [Kevin] did send me a video of the manufacturing process of their A-Star 32U4 Micro, shown below:
In addition to their huge manufacturing room, the guys took me up to their dev lab where they come up with the design of all their products. Lego abound, surprisingly in already built configuration. I’ll let the picture galleries speak for themselves, shown below.