Telepathic Line Follower at Aavishkar 2013

A few of us from Team Robocon went to Aavishkar 2013, UIET, Punjab University in Chandigarh. There were 2 Rounds in this event, held over 2 days: 14th and 15th of September.

The first round was an elimination round, where we had to follow a blue line on a white background. Here is the track that they had specified:

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 1

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 1

We realized that it was miniscule (we even called them to confirm!), and as they had specified a low % of error, we decided to hard code the bot, with a simple backup code just in case. What we basically did was to slow down the bot as time passed, so that it could take tighter turns easier. Further, after a certain amount of time, it would rotate thrice at approximately 90° angles, which was the only way for the bot to take the last few turns to reach the center. Here’s a video of how our bot ran on our track, made as per the specifications provided:

 

The second round was where the “Telepathic” part of things came into the picture. A bot had to follow the given track, while another bot had to trace out the path made by the “master” bot from wireless data received from the master. We decided to use a one-way RF transmitter-emitter pair for this task. The master would send a signal via the transmitter module by using digitalWrite() on 8 of its pins to encode a signal, while the “telepathic” bot would read this signal from the RF receiver via 8 digital pins using digitalRead(). Here’s a video of a prototype we developed, where we used a remote control of sorts on the telepathic bot rather than the master directly for testing things out:

Here’s what the track was supposed to be like:

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 1

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 2

Though seemingly complex, it was specified that only the following blue loop had to be followed:

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 2- path

Telepathic Follower Arena Specifications- Round 2- path

This worked extremely well in our favor, since we were using line sensors with red LEDs on them, and the blue would be the line that reflected best. Further, there were no sharp turns, which would mean that the telepathic bot could trace the path fairly easily with the instructions received via the RF receiver.

We received the shock of our lives when we reached there! We were shown the track before bot submission and it was huge! Well… At least compared to the one they had specified initially. It was over four times the size! We didn’t protest though, and loaded our back up code into the bot before submitting it. We then calibrated the bot, and started it up. To our dismay, the bot stopped after 3/4th the track was done. We realized that this was because, post calibration, all tube lights had been switched on prior to a photo shoot before the start of round 1. In our second run, with the lights all off, i.e., with lighting exactly like it had been during calibration, the bot ran (almost) perfectly. We went onto the second round! Here’s the video of round 1:

 

The second round was initially supposed to be on a different track then the first round, but they decided to use the initial track anyway. The organisers thought this would be easier, considering the first round track wasn’t coloured, but this change ended up working against us, because we had used a colour sensor with red LEDs (which means the multiple colours wouldn’t really be an issue), and the initial track involved following a blue line with no sharp turns, while the first round had 90° turns.

To make matters worse, during the round, the master bot ran out of battery (we had brought 2 rechargeable 9V batteries with us, out of which one had failed (and died totally, providing a massive voltage of 0.02V) during the testing phase, while the other drained fairly quickly, and we had to use non-rechargeable 9V batteries which drain quicker than you can say “Ouch”), while the telepathic bot went crazy (read: the RF module had a short-circuit). Here’s an image from the mayhem that ensued:

 

Moral of the story: Always be prepared for the worse (which we (almost) were, considering we had a back-up line following code inspite of being assured that the track dimensions wouldn’t be changed), and one can never, ever have enough batteries.

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