Warwick Mobile Robotics and the RoboCup Rescue competition

The Warwick Mobile Robotics entry at work at the Robcup Rescue German Open 2014
It's definitely looking like a robot now! Update: Friday March 28, 2014

Warwick Mobile Robotics is a research project carried out by a team of fourth year undergraduate students at the University of Warwick in the UK. The project involves the creation of a search and rescue robot designed to locate survivors in hazardous environments, such as earthquake disaster zones; removing emergency service personnel from danger.

The project has been running for the last seven years. Each team has made alterations to develop the previous robot design. This year, we are designing, manufacturing and programming a whole new, smaller, lighter robot capable of navigating moderate terrain in a smaller environment.

The aim is to develop a modular structure which will allow the robotic platform to be easily modified by future teams. The design will be focused towards achieving a low cost model with key features such as reliability, maintainability and modularity. It must have a maximum turning radius of 0.5 metres and a maximum weight of 25kg which makes it deployable by one person. The long term aim of the project is for the prototype to be further developed by future teams into a commercially viable design.

In order to achieve these design aims we have opted to use MakerBeam and OpenBeam for the chassis and arm structures. The off-shelf beams and fittings provide the perfect solution to our design requirements. The beams themselves have the required structural integrity, are lightweight and can easily be cut to length. Assembly times will be short due to the design of the beams and future years will be able to modify the size of the structure with ease. This suits the modularity of the design.

The team are testing the robot’s capabilities at the RoboCup Rescue competition held in Germany in Magdeburg during the Easter break (April 3-5). The RoboCup Rescue is a competition that tests the robots search and rescue abilities in a simulated disaster environment. The team has decided to enter this competition as it provides an exciting engineering challenge beyond the scope of our undergraduate project requirements and a socially significant real world application for mobile robotics. The team won “Best in Mobility” from 2009-2012, “Best in Manoeuvrability” in 2012 and won the competition in 2010. Last year, the team entered the World RoboCup competition for the first time and placed 10th in the world. Our aim for this year is to enter two robots into the European competition for the first time.

The team is really grateful for the support of MakerBeam in the creation of our robot and we are excited to assemble all of the parts which are currently being manufactured!

Lauren Rutter (Sponsorship and Publicity Coordinator and Chassis Designer)

Bracket design

In november 2013 a guy called Aleksandr sent us an email asking our input for a design problem.  He sent us an email with some Sketchup pictures laying down the problem. He also made some sketches of possible solutions.
The brackets he proposes will not be taken into production, but the sketches are great to discuss here.  They clearly demonstrate a design problem we often encounter with MakerBeam. In working on our stepper motor brackets for example we encountered the same problem. The problem in short: MakerBeam is definitely small in size!

First the problem Aleksandr had. Aleksander wanted to connect beams crosswise, see below.

Beams to connect crosswise.

He also made pictures of possible brackets that will solve this problem. He was thinking of what looks like a combination of the 90 degree bracket and the corner bracket. We could see his problem. We could also see that this problem could be easily solved by our right angle bracket. Back then we just had received some samples. This helped to explain Aleksandr we were working on a solution. You can see his drawings below and a picture of our solution at the far right.

The brackets suggested by Aleksander make clear it is not easy to create brackets for MakerBeam. Here is an overview of his suggestions.

Suggested corner style brackets

What is not immediately obvious from these drawing is the problem of space. The corner style brackets leave no room a nut driver. Or, since you do need a nut driver, it is better said they leave no room for the bracket itself.
Let’s do the math. The diameter of the nut driver is 8mm (nut outside dimension: 5,5mm). The width of the beam is 10mm. This leaves for ony 1mm of space on both sides for the material. This is too thin for metal to make a strong corner connection.
The diameter of the screw by the way is 2,8mm (M3).

The right angle bracket is a much simpler solution. It is now available in our shop. Here is a link.

Leaving room for a hex nut driver is something that is overlooked in a number of bracket designs we received. We love to hear ideas regarding brackets and are always looking forward to receive new ideas for brackets.  Or for other products suited for MakerBeam (and OpenBeam) for that matter. If you think of designs remember MakerBeam is a wonderful small and lightweight product with the emphasis on small!

Team MakerBeam