Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Week 11

In the past week, we completed our second presentation of the Spring 2017 semester. Chris and I were the headline at the beginning of the presentations due to the picture that was posted in the San Jose Mercury News that included Chris and I in it during the Paseo event on April 8th. Our second presentation went well and it allowed us to reflect on the Paseo event so that we could improve the project before Maker Faire. There are some improvements that must be made as well as already keeping in mind what our team will leave behind for next year's team. The merging problem we witnessed at Paseo must be fixed. I am currently working with my team to think up ways to fix this issue. Before adding any extra hardware, we will look into the placement of the current ultrasonic sensor to see if the sensor could be placed in such a way as so it would be able to detect collisions before merging onto the outermost loop of the track.

Our team also started to think about the report and what we could do to simplify the informing process when next year's team takes over. Basically, we want next year's team to struggle less than we did at the beginning of this project at understanding what this project is about and what was done before them. The code from last year's team was lengthy and difficult to understand so this is one objective we have in mind when we leave behind our final updated code. Tim from the mobile app team suggested that we used conventional programming practices in our code as well as creating our own libraries to simplify our code. As of now, we have 1000+ lines of code which could be overwhelming to a newcomer to this project. This is why Steven and I will working in the next couple of weeks to create libraries for our different functions we have created as well as editing our code to follow common programming practices we were taught in past courses.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Week 10

During the past week, my team and I were engaged in testing our controls system on the track along with the software from the mobile app team and the positioning team. Unfortunately, we did not have that much time as we wanted to test on a complete track and some fixes need to be made to ensure smooth operation of the podcars on the track. Our team also participated in our first big event which was the Paseo Prototyping Challenge this past Saturday April 8th. Chris and I made the San Jose Mercury News paper. I was surprised to see a photo of us on the paper but it was a great experience. While at the event, we saw some issues that need to be fixed. We experienced issues with spacing on the track where the podcar slowed down at some locations because of tight spots. Some of the brackets used to house the hall effect sensors kept getting caught on the corrugated metal strip. We also experienced issues with some of the brackets since the hall effect sensors would sometimes miss a reading of a magnet and thus switching of the lever arms did not occur. It was most unfortunate that the software of the app team and the positioning team did not function as it was expected due to not enough time for testing. We also had to constantly supervise the podcars as they were moving around the track to avoid collisions when the podcars merged paths around the outer and inner loops and at the stations. That is another issue we need to address and fix.

Our presentation was postponed until this coming week since the 1/12th scale team had the Paseo event coming up. Thus, our team and I have also been busy with preparing for our second presentation of the Spring 2017 semester. There are some fixes that need to be done to our final designs and more testing needs to be done to ensure that we meet the deliverables assigned to us at the beginning of the academic year. Our team will also begin to contact Gene Nishinaga to see if we can use his software on our system.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Week 9

This past week was our Spring Break but all of the 1/12th scale subteams met throughout the week to work on the project. My team worked in collaboration with almost all of the subteams but more closely with the mobile app team. I joined my team to test our system on a partially built section of the track throughout the week having success as we tested it. The podcar successfully read the magnets mounted on the track as well as the RFID tags which are crucial to our destination designations as well as to switch the lever arms on the bogie. We ran the podcar at different speeds and we met the same results each time the podcar ran around the loop.

Although we only tested the podcar on a small part of the complete track, there were some concerns that we have addressed to the track team regarding tight spaces along some sections of the track, correct magnet placement, and issues with the bends that caused the podcar to destabilize as it made contact with both of the rails again. My team along with the app team were able to test only two different combinations of station-to-station designation due to only having half of the track to work with. We should be able to have at least four working podcars by Paseo that will be controlled through the app team's software. From the progress we have made during Spring Break and from hearing about the status of last year's teams during the same time of the academic year, I am confident that we will be able to have something to demonstrate at Paseo. I am just worried about the rain we are expecting this weekend which could pose potential problems to the track and all of the electronics we will have this coming Saturday. We have a plan B in case the software decides to work against us but my team and I have full confidence in the app team that they will be able to make our system work with their software. The first big event is coming and we will be ready to demonstrate a working project.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Week 8

This past week, not much could be done since my team and I are waiting on other subteams to get their work done so that we can begin testing. We almost have all of the expansion boards built but we had enough to begin testing on the track. Chris can now build the two expansion he could not build since the app team had a bench model with parts from our inventory and I also possessed a bench model. We are about a week away from the first important event where we will be able to showcase our project in front of many people. I am beginning to worry as I am sure other teams are also as well that there will not be enough time to fix any major issues with the project if they arise while testing. One such issue arose this past Sunday and it had to do with RFID. The app team and I believe that it might be the library that we are using but I am currently in the process of looking for other libraries that are compatible with the Arduino Mega that we can test to see which library will give us a repeatable and reproducible reading every time we swipe an RFID card on the RFID reader. We have also begun to modify the summer team's code to work with our components in the case that anything goes wrong and we could have a backup plan.

It looks like our team and other teams will have to spend almost everyday at the shop from now on to get this project fully functional. Even with doubts from other teams, I feel like we will experience some sort of success and I am hoping that we can get at least two podcars controlled through the mobile app team's software. I am more than confident that our project will work by Maker Faire but our current focus is on getting a conditionally functional project by next week. For now, we have to help each other out and do our very best to get this project working.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Week 7

This past week, I began to test with my team both the bench model that we have had with us all project year long and also with the model mounted on the podcar. With the deadline coming up, our team decided to meet up over the weekend at the shop to work on the project and test out our system on the provisional track while the track team builds the rest of the track. This past Sunday proved to demonstrate to us that there is a lot of fixing that must be done not only to our system but with other team's work as well. The track has some details that need attention in order for our system to run smoothly without having to worry that the podcar will get stuck on the track or will fall off.

In addition, Tim from the mobile app team and I have been in constant contact with regards to implementing his system into our system so that he can control all of the podcar's features. On Sunday, I was amazed to see that he was able to control the speed of the motors as well as control the indicator depending on what color the LED should be lighted as. I still have yet to see that the kill switch works as it is supposed to as well as stopping the podcar if there is an obstacle in front of it. Not much as been done to the code at this point since the app team is making modifications to the code so that they are able to control the system from their computer through the use of Xbees. At this point, I am just hoping for the best and hoping that our project is satisfactory enough to have something to show for at Paseo two weeks from this coming Saturday. We will see what happens in the next coming week which means a whole lot of debugging, fixing, testing, and making fast changes to our design.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Week 6

This past week, our team had our first presentation. We felt like we did well on it and hope that our confidence is reflected from the feedback that Eric will give us. Besides the presentation, my team went back to work on the project since the deadline to finish the project is coming up. Chris was tasked with building the rest of the prototype boards and any 3D printing so that we can have these done when testing on the track is ready to begin. Steven and I needed to get the encoders working so that we can set a speed appropriately instead of trial and error. We also needed to start integrating pathing and the controls systems together so that we can start integrating the app team's work.

I was not able to get anywhere with the encoders. I am getting encoder counts but I am not sure what to do with these counts. I know that to find the speed in rpm, we need to the find the difference in the encoder counts in a set time interval and divide that difference by that time interval. The formula for speed is the basic distance over time formula. At this point, I will have to seek help from my teammates and maybe seek the help from Dr. Furman since he does have experience with encoders. This encoder work has left me stumped and frustrated but I am hoping that I will get the help I need to measure a speed from the encoders.

Besides the encoders, I decided to start the process of integration since my work got halted with the encoders. I wanted to at least get the hall effect sensor that will switch the lever arm when it detects a "dumb" magnet to work since the podcars will be in motion at all times without any destination set until a station number is sent to a particular podcar. Since the podcars will be moving around the track, the app team requested that we set four checkpoints on the outer corners of the track on the outside loop so that they know which route is the quickest to get to a station. I have incorporated four more RFID cards that will cause the podcar indicator to light the LED blue as it passes the card.

With less time to work on the project, my team and I are beginning to stress out because there is still much to do in such a short amount of time. We are just hoping that our system will work and that our effort was not wasted into getting a controls system that will actually work reliably and efficiently. With few time left to work on the project, I will continue to integrate the systems together and start testing with the other subteams as soon as our team has a part of the track built.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Week 5

This past week, I was tasked to build a bench model for the app team as requested since they will begin testing their work with it. We encountered some complications while building the bench model but were able to fix it. I gave the bench model to the app team last Friday and showed them how to connect the rest of the components. I built the bench model so that the orientation of the components can only fit one way without them having to doubt themselves on how the component should go on the breadboard.

Along with building the bench model, my team and I were mostly busy preparing for the presentation that we have this week and writing the paper that is also due this week. Unfortunately, these assignments have halted our progress in the project but will immediately resume our work after the presentation. We are almost ready to test but we need to integrate Steven's and my work together so that we can also test the app team's work with our work. Time is almost up and I am hoping that everything runs smoothly with little debugging needed. Unfortunately, that may not be the case but we need to put in all of our effort now more than ever to finish this project. We need to have patience and we need to help each other succeed because in the end this will all reflect on how the 1/12th scale team did overall.

In the coming week, I will be working with Steven to integrate the whole system together as well as getting readouts on the speed of the motors. We will also begin testing so that we have enough time to debug our system. Simultaneously, we will also work with the app team to integrate their work with ours.