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Home>PRISM Update>Robotics Team- Control Box

Control Box (April Update)

This gallery highlights the PRISM Robotics Team's progress from late January 2005 to mid-April 2005. The photos show primarily the end results, but the captions provide a bit of insight into some of the work involved.

Clicking on the thumbnails below will allow you to see a larger image. Use your browser's back button to return. Photos and description copyright Richard Stansbury.

rover control box from front
Closeup of control panel

In the Week One gallery, a prototype for a control box was designed and approved. This control box (left photo - inside rover canopy) is responsible for housing all of the on-board electronic equipment for the rover - sensors, actuators, and control circuitry. Inside, a Xilinx Virtex 2 Pro embedded controller would be responsible for processing user input, controlling the actuators, supporting emergency kill switches, and providing information to the users.
Assembly of the control box was left up to the University of Kansas Physics Department's machine shop. At Nichols Hall, we lack the welding equipment necessary to weld aluminum with the quality required. Once we received the assembled box, it was up to the robotics team to install all of the necessary equipment. Our in-house technician Dennis Sundermeyer, used his mill drill to cut out the control panel (right) for the box so that we could install an assortment of input/output connectors, toggle switches, push-buttons, LCD screens, etc.
The final product needed to be capable of supporting all rover systems and control. It was also designed to allow a human driver to sit within the cockpit of the rover for tasks such as loading and unloading the vehicle. In the future, two additional boxes will be added to support the radar systems. These boxes will be modular so we may remove them from the vehicle for shipping.

the rover outside on the grass
two team members work on control box

Once assembly of the control box was complete, we spent several weeks testing and configuring our controller. Joystick control would be our first milestone test of the new rover. After this milestone, we could focus on integrating the new controller with our existing software systems that were used for MARVIN I. Testing was performed within our laboratory with an exhaust hose used to vent gases from our diesel engine. The tracks were also removed so that we could test the hydraulic motor's built-in speed sensors without the vehicle actually moving.
On Thursday, April 14, 2005, MARVIN II was re-equipped with tracks (left photo) and driven outside for the first time since its arrival. Torry Akins (PRISM engineer) and Eric Akers (robotics team member) inspect the rover one last time before joystick testing begins (right photo).

rover moving in parking lot
team members give

Later that afternoon, joystick testing began at the KU Marching Band's practice area, well away from people and other vehicles (left photo). The joystick control worked as expected with only a few calibration issues. Upon completion of the tests, Torry Akins and I, Richard Stansbury (robotics team member), give the camera a thumbs up (right photo). A milestone has been reached, but a lot of work remains.


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