Atlanta, Day 2, 3, 4

I originally intended to do 1 post a day while I was there, kind of like a journal. Didn’t happen. Way too busy. So here’s the recap!

tl;dr version: we kicked butt :D.

long version:

Day 2 –

Nothing much happened. Whole day of testing and preparation for upcoming matches. The Harvard/MIT joint team also came (half of them got stranded by a blizzard and were delayed a few hours). I personally didn’t do very much, since nothing on the electrical side broke. The AI and mech guys were very busy, though.

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Our tables are the 2 closer to the camera with lots of laptops. Further from the camera is the MIT/Harvard team!

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Georgia Tech’s student center, where we had breakfast. Very spacious. Lot’s of seats. A lot newer/cleaner, too, though I don’t think the food is as good.

Day 3 –

Had breakfast with the other teams at their waffle place with good food and rude waitresses. Got to talk to a girl from MIT/Harvard (never found out :D). Turned out our teams have similar troubles with team management, etc (new people only come for a few meetings, then disappear). Also talked about grad school, and stuff. That seems to be a common topic here for some reason.

Then we visited their bookstore. Was gonna get a tshirt or something. But at $20 I found it a little pointless. I will get one for free some time, somehow. I prefer getting my tshirts free.

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Their spanking new computing building. Huge!

Then we went back to the lab, and played a bunch of games with both teams.

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I think we won all games, but it was pretty funny.

It’s more like a competition of who’s robots suck less. All ours robots were rushed to production. Our team finished assembling 1 day before our flight. Georgia Tech’s robots were built while we were there. As a result, there were loads of problems with all teams.

MIT robots like to spin in circles, and wander around randomly before kick-off. Georgia Tech robots like to run full speed at each other (and other team’s robots). Our robots like to randomly crash and just sit there, and a few of them couldn’t drive straight (wheel encoder problem).

There wasn’t much happening on the electrical side of things, except we got a huge spark coming out of our robot in one game. It was very scary. Especially when huge caps charged to 220V are involved, as well as highly explosive lithium polymer batteries. I examined and tested it and found nothing wrong. So we just let it keep playing… I have a feeling this is going to be one of my life’s forever unsolved mysteries.

Day 3 –

Some more games, and we went to watch hockey! This is the first hockey game of my life. Pretty confusing. I had to ask people which team won after the game. I DID see a shoot-out though.

And it’s supposedly really cheap there, at $20 per ticket. Probably because no one there has heard of hockey.

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(can you tell I learned to use exposure control!!?)

Day 4 –

A few more games, then pack up and fly away!

Just before we go, the Georgia Tech people gave us a tour of their huge robotics lab! It would be nice if I can work here some day… They have a WHOLE FLOOR! At UBC it’s just one room.

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Mechanical arm robot that can hold different things, and has vision (coffee delivery robot!) –

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Social robot –

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Golem Krang, I don’t even remember what it does. But it’s so dangerous that they gave it a whole room with padded walls.

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Really cool stuff!

Then we took the sub to airport, and flew back to Seattle. We got there at 10pm, which is 1am in Atlanta…

And we had to drive 3 hours to Vancouver.

That was such a fun ride. I was the only person on the car, besides the driver, that didn’t fall asleep. I had to keep talking to him to try to keep him awake, for all our safety, even though I was dying, too.

The city Atlanta in general was pretty nice. Public transit is seriously lacking, because apparently everyone drives. People don’t bite.

All their food involves chicken (:D:D).

We went to pubs every night at 3am not because we wanted to, but because we always work till around 2, and get hungry, and the only places that are open are pubs…

That’s the end of this trip! I need to find more excuses to visit cool schools.

Atlanta, Day 1

As you might have heard, the UBC Thunderbots team is currently at Georgia Tech for a robot soccer competition in preparation for Robocup 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. We have 7 people going, from electrical, mechanical, and CPSC. I’m the youngest here I think. Most other team members are grad students or at least 5th year. I’m also the only electrical guy. If the robots break down electrically I’ll have lot’s of fun!

This is more like a small test run, so only a handful of universities are participating – Georgia Tech, UBC, Harvard, MIT. Competition should be strong!

Note that this is not the official team blog. The official one is here: http://ubcrobocup.com/blog though I’m not sure if anyone will update it.

Not much was done on the first day. Mostly just traveling.

We departed UBC at around 7:30, and took 1:30pm flight from Seattle to Atlanta. I love how the security people didn’t mind our whole box of highly explosive lithium polymer batteries at all, but we can’t have a bottle of water.

The flight is 4 hours, and with another 3 hours of time difference, it’s already night time when we got to Atlanta, and got picked up by wonderful people from RoboJackets (Georgia Tech’s robocup team, who are hosting the event).

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Team trailer?! We need one of those, too…

Half an hour later, we were at Georgia Tech! It was very dark, so we didn’t see much. The school feels much bigger though, despite having a student population much LESS than UBC. Buildings look more traditional, probably because most of Georgia Tech was built during WWII.

More exploring planned for sure.

Our playing field, in their manufacturing research lab (hence the big cranes) –

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Then we went to a local pub for dinner with them (at around 11, no other place is open). Food was alright, talked to their electrical guy that graduated a while ago. Learned a bunch. He is experimenting with using high powered laser to etch PCBs (instead of the traditional photoresist method), very cool! We also talked about electronics design for our robots. It’s interesting to see how our teams have taken different trade-offs in electronics design (eg. they sacrificed kicker performance for safety with completely isolated charging circuit, when we don’t even have a fuse on the highly explosive batteries…).

It’s interesting that even though we are/will be in a competition, we share our dark secrets freely. I looked at their PCBs for a few minutes, and asked him loads of questions. I guess this is one thing I love about academia. No secrecy. Fun to see how other people tackle the exact same problems, with similar high level designs, but different low level implementations.

Then we talked about grad school options, since he is applying to grad schools right now. Georgia Tech sounds like somewhere I’ll want to go. They have a huge robotics program (where UBC is all nano, which I’m not particularly interested in).┬áCarnegie┬áMellon, Caltech, and MIT also have robotics programs. Lot’s of choices!

Tomorrow, MIT and Harvard teams will be arriving! Tonight, thanks to being on a budget, we are sleeping in sleeping bags on their dorm floors.

Floor is hard.