During the end of the spring semester of 2017, the TSJC robotics team learned a great deal of what could be done to improve our rover’s design. Now it is a new year and time for a new rover. Throughout the fall of 2017, the robotics team quietly worked on this new robot, which was originally called CLOEE 2.0. Now it has a new name…
Meet Scout-E (Sample Collecting Optical Ultimate Terrain Explorer):
While this rover is similar to its predecessor CLOEE, it is undergoing massive changes. Majority of the changes done to this new rover are of its physical design. One particular thing the team changed was the suspension system (also known as the rocker-bogie system). With CLOEE, we were attempting to ensure that the rover had a lot of clearance. However, it ended up being too much, and CLOEE became unstable. She wasn’t able to climb and maneuver as well as we hoped. Scout-E is much closer to the ground, but still capable of climbing just as well, if not better. Its suspension is longer than that of CLOEE and also has a new platform to match it. After witnessing CLOEE sink in the soft sand of the Mars Yard, we decided on making our wheels thicker to better distribute the weight of the rover. A new hand is also in the works. We are trying again for a three-finger gripper (an idea we attempted last year but gave up). Each finger will have its own linear actuator that will provide around three times as much gripping power.
Both the electronics and the programming of this rover will be very similar to CLOEE’s, but will have their own special enhancements. The electronics have integrated a circuit used to control the Dynamixel Servos (the shoulder and the elbow motors of the arm) better. Previously we had used a separate circuit board to control the Dynamixels, however, we wanted everything to be on as few circuit boards as possible. The electronics team also are cleaning up the wires on the arm and rover itself (as we have poor cable management). The programming team is creating a new live streaming program to replace the one we previously used. This new program will perform at lower latency and not hog all the resources on the mini-computer. It also allows various features to be adjusted such as the color of the video and zooming in and out. The programmers want to aim to make Scout-E much more autonomous than CLOEE. One goal is to be able to find a particular sample (such as a colored rock) on the video livestream, click on it, and then Scout-E would go and pick up the object by itself.
On Monday (Jan 8th), Scout-E took its first steps. We were able to wire it and program it to move. On the first test, we were surprised to see how quickly Scout-E moved as it raced down the hallway (we had to give chase shortly after as it scampered away). We went outside and tested different directions and turning and pleasantly discovered how smoothly Scout-E maneuvered around.
On Friday (Jan 12th), Scout-E had another outdoor experience where we tested its movement again. We had added things such as CLOEE’s camera mast and mini-computer to Scout-E and found that the rover had the weight unevenly distributed. Its platform was tilted from too much weight on one side. This will be important to remember when we start adding other heavy components such as batteries and the arm later on. Overall, the past week has been very successful and we had taken concrete steps in making Scout-E the ultimate rover.