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.



A Trip to Remember

On Sunday, May 14th, the blissfully quiet campus of TSJC was interrupted by the sounds of students dragging bags and suitcases of clothing, food, and other necessities. While some packed lightly, others seemed to have insisted on bringing half of their bedroom with them. CLOEE insisted on this too. We took two vans instead of one bus. We were forced to throw everyone’s luggage in the back of one van as CLOEE and all of her things filled up the other. Despite each van holding up to 15 people, somehow we ended filling up all the seats of one van and the students being sardined together while the other students in the other van had entire rows to themselves. Some chose to be canned fish while others chose first class airplane. As we left, we said our goodbyes to the mild weather of Colorado and braced ourselves for the onslaught of Texas heat and humidity. The next two days consisted of six and nine hours of driving. On Monday, we finally arrived at our destination in the hot city of Houston! Upon coming and unloading at our hotel, we immediately set out to the pool. It was only afterwards that we took a look at CLOEE and made sure she made it to Houston in one piece. CLOEE started up right away and functioned as planned. The only thing we changed was the Gimbal as the old one at that point was made up of mostly super glue. After some tests and our grouchy comments at Youtube’s livestream system, we had everything ready to go.


On Tuesday, we gathered up our supplies and the rover and met with our NASA representative. We all paraded to the Johnson Space Center’s Mars Yard. Even though some of us overestimated the size of the area, we were all impressed either way. Early on, we impressed the NASA employees by our quick set up time (less than 10 minutes).  They were expecting us to take about an hours’ time. We took the opportunity to see how CLOEE did on various parts of the Mars Yard before we started. While communications stayed strong the entire time, CLOEE did encounter a few issues. When we put her in the middle of a lunar crater, the loose gravel and steep slopes proved to be too much for CLOEE to get out of as she slid back down. It was decided that we would avoid the lunar craters until the end or altogether. The Mars hill also turned out to be surprising, as it is very steep except for one side of it (but steep enough we still couldn’t climb back up).

After some time, we were called off the field as the NASA employees set out several colorful rocks and Mr. Bill onto the field. The Mission Control was put inside a windowless trailer that was air conditioned while the rest of us were left outside to fend for ourselves in the high humidity and heat. Right before the run, Mission Control strategized on the best way to complete the course.  Due to the difficulties getting out of one of the lunar craters, Mission Control decided to immediately go to the rock yard where the highest point rocks were placed.  As soon as the timer started, Mission Control proceeded down Mars Hill. At the bottom, most of the terrain looked similar in different directions and CLOEE took a wrong turn.


She ended up heading straight for a grass patch on the boundary of the course.  Luckily, Mission Control soon discovered the mistake and made the necessary corrections to get back on the course. Once CLOEE arrived at the rock yard, she immediately began scanning for rocks. There were so many big rocks scattered throughout the rock yard that the colored rocks blended in very well, making them very difficult to find. A few rocks were collected and when there were 15 minutes remaining, Mission Control decided to head back up the Mars Hill. However, that part proved to be challenging. CLOEE wasn’t as good at climbing slopes as we had hoped. There was only one narrow part of the hill that CLOEE was able to use to climb up the hill. We were unable to locate that part before time was up. We collected three rocks. Some of the members of Mission Control were discouraged and not happy with the results. After a pep talk over lunch, we learned that the total amount of points we received was 12, which would have put us in fourth or fifth place when compared to the previous year’s rankings against the major universities. It quickly lightened the mood.

We discussed strategy and came up with a new plan of attack for the second round. As CLOEE went down the Mars Hill, they found a rock that they successfully picked up.


Then the rover went to the sand pit part of the Rock Yard. This particular sand was beach sand which was much finer than the sand TSJC used to practice and test in. While CLOEE did well overall in the sand, she was sinking in the very fine sand which made it harder for her to traverse the terrain. Eventually CLOEE made it out of the sand pit and Mission Control decided to drive straight to the rocky portion of the Rock Yard. Again, there were problems with being able to see the colored rocks through the cameras. In the remaining minutes, Mission Control decided to try going up the Mars Hill again. They were trying to use particular slabs of stone in order to see the location where they would head up. However, there was a slight misunderstanding and CLOEE attempted to climb the wrong part of the Mars Hill again, which proved to be unsuccessful. However, we got 13 points this time around and performed quite well overall. The entire event proved to be very successful and we learned a lot on what to do to improve on our rover.

After the second run was complete, we packed up everything from the Rock Yard and were led to another part of the Johnson Space Center. We got our own very special tour of Building 9.

While tours of this building are usually held from the catwalks of the building, we got to be on the floor and see everything up close. The overall reaction of the whole team consisted of eyes widening and mouths dropping open before pulling out the cell phones and cameras to snap a dozen pictures of each thing. Building 9 had all kinds of things including replica modules of the International Space Station, land-based space vehicles, and robots. It was the ultimate paradise for space nerds and geeks alike.

Wednesday was a day full of tours and exploration. We went back to the Johnson Space Center and got presentations about NCAS (a community college program) and were also introduced to the potential of internships at NASA. Following that, we got to use VR goggles to take a 3D tour of the International Space Station.

While some people spun around in their chairs getting a look of everything, others couldn’t look down without freaking out, and some of us got terribly disorientated and nauseated within the first couple of minutes. After the 3D exploration, we got some lunch and then headed to Space Center Houston. We spent the rest of the day happily nerding out to all the cool space things we saw there. We witnessed mini movies of Space Exploration, got a look of the first ever original Mission Control that was responsible for the Gemini and Apollo missions, and we got to see all of the other neat exhibits there. Afterwards, we dumped a ton of money on shirts with witty quotes and other nifty little items from the gift shop.

We want to thank all of our generous sponsors for helping us build C.L.O.E.E and be able to take her to NASA’s Johnson Space Center for testing.  We could not have done it without everyone’s help! We would also like to thank NASA for inviting us to test on their Mars Yard, and send a huge thank you to Stacy Dees and Lyndon Bridgwater for giving us their time and help to make this possible. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Also, we want to thank our great drivers for taking vans full of loud students to and from Houston!

We are planning to continue to improve C.L.O.E.E and fix the problems that we found while testing at NASA’s Mars Yard. We will make sure to keep everyone updated by posting a couple of times over the summer.

Houston Challenge Live Stream

After several months of intense building and testing, we are finally ready for NASA’s challenge in the Johnson Space Center’s Mars Yard.  Watch us and Cloee in action, and wish us good luck! Our scheduled testing times are from 8:30am to noon, and from 1pm to 4pm Central Time. We will send out an update if our scheduled testing time changes.

This is why we practice

During our practice run today, our robot went swimming in a sea of rocks. It started sinking slowly and that’s when the rocks got stuck in the wheels and jammed them. The wheels themselves also became loose where you can move them. The only thing that should be moving the wheels is the motors. Josh started fixing those issues right away.



In todays hour long testing, we were able to collect 13 rocks.


The hand mechanism broke near the end of the day. We are thinking about replacing the piece that broke with an aluminum or wood piece because our 3D printer has already been emptied for the summer. We will find a solution and fix it on Monday.

Broken Hand




T-Minus 9 Days

This had been the most eventful week we’ve had all year. We have accomplished so much in just a few days. The whole team has been working very hard so we will be prepared for our time in Houston. We have spent many days this week practicing driving and picking up rocks.

Friday: 5/5/17

Today, we had our last design review meeting. Our reviews gave us some very helpful things for us to consider for the last few days before we leave for Houston.  One of the main things was for us to be very cautious with C.LO.E.E. traveling. They have seen a lot of good teams end up breaking the robot on their way to the competition. We need to find a safe way to get our rover to sit still on a bus for 13 hours. We also fixed our dynamixel servos. When you put the hand on the ground or put too much pressure on the dynamixel servos, they blink red and go out and need to be reset. In the past, we had to fix it by flipping the switch on the rover. Hayden came up with a program that resets the dynamixels without resetting the power.

Thursday: 5/4/17

More testing!! Warm weather!! YAY!

We set up the live stream on youtube yesterday.

It is a struggle getting people to go home when they are so excited about C.L.O.E.E.

Alyssa ran over Jenny’s phone with the rover… The phone is okay though.

May 4th was the day our parts began to show a little wear and tear, because our testing sessions have been back to back. The spring got caught on the dynamixel cable and popped off of its mount, the bracket is bent, and the Gimbal camera broke for the second time. We also had some bad latency. Overall, our testing went slightly overtime. In good news, we tested our ability to set up a YouTube livestream and we were successful in these efforts. We tested for an hour. In this time, we were able to pick up 9 rocks.

Wednedsay: 5/3/17

Lane picked up a molding orange because he confused it with a rock. You know that when Hayden is shivering, its really cold. The jetpack didn’t like cold weather either. However, our reviewers said it probably wasn’t the jetpack but the battery that didn’t like the cold.




May 15th was officially claimed as Trinidad state Robotics day in our city. We were invited to attend the city counsel meeting where we showed off C.L.O.E.E. and received our Proclamation.



Snow Work Day!

It was a quiet Saturday. Despite the blizzard-like conditions we had to trudge through(not really), we made it to the TSJC campus. We all had our own tasks, though some were more productive than others.

Josh and Caleb trying to fix the issue with the wheel getting stuck yesterday before using a drill to talk to each other in Morse code.


Jenny and Hayden are updating their books that they have been seriously neglecting.

(Jenny is ignoring Hayden because he cut his hair. JK)


Fixing the budget: because we are expensive.

Alyssa likes accounting…..IMG_0667






Alyssa changed her mind:


We needed more rocks, so we made them pretty. It became an Easter Fest. IMG_0673

Practicing our rock collecting(it is like an Easter Egg hunt by now):


This is why we aren’t in our sand pit(It’s almost May and it is still snowing???):


We are burying Mr. Bill Alive. Rest in Peace Mr. Bill.


This is Auguste working on the temperature sensor.


A Day in the Life of CLOEE

Today we did our best to replicate the Houston competition. The team all drove down to Seychelle’s house in a parade to begin our testing. Although we had discrepancies like grass, an incoming snow storm, and a giant furry friend, the tests were very accurate in terms of time and setting restrictions.



Our “day in the life” run took only 2 minutes over an hour. Because of the area we were in, we had some connection problems that took 20 minutes out of our hour to solve. This was because we picked up the robot in an attempt to protect it from an incoming car. The dynamixels also had moments where they would not work and the team had to reset the robot (this was because August jumped in front of it).

Overall, we did stay close to the time limit and were able to pick up 2 rocks (exceeding Ms. C’s expectations by 200%). We are considering this to be a successful first “day in the life” test.

This will be followed by 2 very long weeks of testing! Wish us luck in Houston! T minus 15 days….

Happier Earth Today!

Happy Earth Day!

Although our hands were numb, there was trash in our hair, and Tony was swimming in the river, we convinced Lizzie she didn’t want to grow up and be homeless. This was all a conclusion of todays experience of cleaning up trash around the community. We found a defibrillator, multiple wet shirts, some interesting homeless signs, too many broken beer bottles, a knitted blanket, an oil filter, a mattress, a stove top, an insulin needle, and a poop-smelling tire. Oh, also a broken shopping cart.

It was all for the goodness of our society! JK, we are getting donations.

Here is the evidence if you didn’t believe me.



Aside from our Earth day adventures, we actually did some robotics things today.

Mr. Bill is being Sacrificed to the Rock Gods in order for the rocks to get back home in their box.


We put block ramps on the top where the rocks are being put in. Also fans to keep the insides cool!stickersWe are getting stickers like a famous NASCAR Robot. Is that a thing? Yes.

Mr. Bill takes a tumble today as Lane moves the rock pile to get the bottom rock.





And Over the Ramps We Go!

Today we got over the ramp. The ramp had a 33% grade which equals about 18 degrees of slope. The rover, to accomplish the task, needed the wheels to be put on maximum power. This achievement is a signal of us being one step closer to being able to test the rover at Johnson Space Center.

But even with the recent successes, there has been some “bugs” that have surfaced. The mission control software is not behaving. It randomly crashes and the rover movement commands have large lag time to be executed.

The rover is getting its wheels upgraded with new grips NASCAR style below.


Here’s a video of Mr. Bill getting picked.


The Ramp of Confusion

20170415_133626.jpgToday was a testing day. One of the most notable testing experiences of the day was testing if CLOEE could climb a steep incline. The building team built us a ramp that was 30 degrees to test her ability to climb hills. At first the team thought CLOEE was having issues climbing up the incline.  The first test she almost flipped over.

We continued to test CLOEE on the ramp and then moved onto nearby hills. She was able to climb small hills at about 15 degrees, but the fact still remained that she could not climb the ramp. Luckily, Ms.C came to our rescue. After running errands out of town for most of the day, she returned to our apparent  failure and checked our facts. She quickly realized that we did not have to climb a 30 degree incline but an incline with a 33% grade, which is closer to a 18.26 degree incline.


In addition, we tested outside in the sand pit and in the rock yard. CLOEE did very well in the sandpit, despite having problems with communications, cameras,  and general latency. These problems caused some long moments of pause that could negatively affect our time during the competition. At the beginning of class, CLOEE had problems with her Qotom minicomputer. These problem was quickly resolved and CLOEE was sent back to testing.

The team has also been developing an arm run by potentiometers to provide an easier alternative to controlling the arm. The prototype for this is near completion and looking promising.