RC bouy ….saves lives and would be great for other ocean research that requires a robust platform.

February 15, 2017



Computer with a heart??

August 25, 2016

One of the teams I mentor has done something scarrrryyyyūüėé

please vote for Robodox by liking blog post at http//www.dreamchallenge.us


thanks….it can mean $5000 prize.

Energy ratio method for quantifying effect of ball mass variations on range error of a flywheel ball shooter

May 30, 2015

The new Vex game “Nothing but Net” requires a ball to be shot across the field into a goal.¬†¬† The ball has a mass specification that allows up to 10% variation.¬†¬†¬† I derived equations that related the range error to mass error for a single flywheel shooter here¬†and wanted to generalize¬†the analysis¬†to any flywheel system that uses the energy of the flywheel to impart energy to the ball.¬†¬†¬† It turns out that the error in range due to mass is a simple function of the ratio of flywheel energy to the energy of the ball.

i.e. %range error = %mass of ball error /(1+ ratio)

where ratio = flywheel energy/ ball energy.

Following is a derivation of this formula.  To simplify the work I will define a term called equivalent mass, Meq,  for the flywheel which is a mass that would give the same kinetic energy of the flywheel if it were traveling linearly at the ball speed, V.

I. e.   we can write the flywheel energy , Ew = 1/2*Meq*V^2

We know that Ew =1/2* I_wheel*w_wheel^2 so

So  Meq = I_wheel*w_wheel^2/V^2 

For a single wheel shooter, w_wheel = 2*V/r_wheel so

Meq_1 = 4*n*I_wheel/r_wheel^2

where n = number of wheels.

For a two wheel shooter, w_wheel = V/r_wheel  so

Meq_2 = n*I_wheel/r_wheel^2

If we write I_wheel in terms of its radius and mass then

I_wheel = c*m_wheel*r_wheel^2.     Substituting in the equivalent mass equations gives

Meq_1 = 4*n*c*m_wheel

Meq_2 = n*c*m_wheel

.Ball Energy, Eb

Eb_1 = 1/2 *m_b*V^2*(1.4)   (1.4 factor is for added spin energy)

Eb_2 = 1/2*m_b*V^2

Conservation of Energy

The initial energy of the flywheel is equal to the final energy of the wheel plus the ball energy.

Ew_initial = Ew_final + Eb

Ew_initial = Ew_final*(1+ Eb/Ew_final)  = Ew_final*(1 + 1/ratio)


ratio = Ew_final/Eb

Lets look at Eb/Ew_final

single wheel shooter

Eb_1/Ew_final_1 = 1/2*m_b*V^2*1.4/(1/2*Meq_1*V^2)  = 1.4*m_b/Meq_1


ratio_1 = 5/7*Meq_1/m_b

two wheel shooter

Eb_2/Ew_final_2 =  1/2*m_b*V^2/(1/2*Meq_2*V^2)= m_b/Meq_2 so

ratio_2 = Meq_2/m_b

So it looks like  ratio is only a function of m_b and not a function of V.

Rewriting the energy equation to isolate Ew_final

we get

Ew_final= Ew_initial/(1 + 1/ratio)

Since Ew_final is proportional to V^2 which is proportional to range R

we can say that

R/R_0 = (1+1/ratio_0)/(1+ 1/ratio)

and introducing % changes   R=R0 *( 1 + %e _r), m_b = m_b_0*(1 + %e_m_b)

we can after some manipulation show that

%e_r = %e_m_b *( 1/(1+ ratio) = %e_m_b*factor

where the  mass % error reduction factor=1/(1+ ratio)   and  ratio . is defined above for each type of shooter.

factor vs ratio is simple to compute

ratio, factor

.5 , 2/3

1, 1/2

2, 1/3

3, 1/4

4, 1/5

5, 1/6

9, 1/10

Single wheel shooter

ratio_1=  Meq_1/1.4/m_b_0= 4*n*c*m_wheel/m_b_0/1.4

Two wheel shooter

ratio_2 = Meq_2/m_b_0= n*c*m_wheel/m_b_0      

Range performance

Lets put some numbers for the 5″ vex flywheel.

m_wheel = .18 kg, m_b_0 = .05 kg, c = .84^2 = .71

Single wheel shooter factor:

ratio_1 = 4*n*1.79/1.4

ratio_1 = 4*1*1.79/1.4 = 5.1   => factor = .163  (assumes 1 wheel for flywheel)

ratio_1 = 4*2*1.79/1.4 = 10.2   => factor = .089   (assumes 2 wheels for flywheel)

Two wheel shooter factor:

ratio_2 = n*1.79

ratio_2 = 2*1.79 = 3.6    => factor = .217 (assumes 1 wheel on each side)

ratio_2  = 4*1.79 = 7.2   => factor = .12  (assumes 2 wheels on each side)

ratio_2  = 6*1.79 = 10.74  => factor = .085  (assumes 3 wheels on each side)

Observation…. although the two wheel shooter flywheel has 1/4 the energy due to its slower speed, the ball energy is also less because it requires no spin energy. The energy ratio is only different by a factor of 2.85 rather than the full 4.¬† Still, the single wheel shooter has about 1.3% less range error than the two wheel shooter¬†with¬†the ¬†n=2 configuration.¬†¬† This is not that big a deal since we are talking 1.4 inches error (compared to a 4 inch ball diameter).

Vex Note: Motor power required to launch balls

April 23, 2015

The new vex game , Nothing but Net, could utilize a design similar to a two wheel tennis ball launcher.

Question: how many motors are required on the launcher?

The after a launch, the energy lost from the spinning wheels is transformed into ball kinetic energy and heat due to friction and ball compression.

After each shot the wheels are brought back to initial spin speed by the power of the motors.   The maximum time allowed for respinning is the cycle time of the firing sequence.    Lets take a look at the Vex game derived requirements:

Ball mass, m = 60 grams

Ball launch Speed, v =  6 m/s

Ball kinetic energy:K =  1/2*mass*v^2 = .5*.06*6^2 = 1.08 joules

Energy loss due to compression : E_c

Energy loss due to friction :  E_f

Time between shots: 1 sec

Average power required  p_avg = ( K + E_c + E_f)/ t

Force on ball during acceleration:

F =  d(m*v)/dt    or the change in momentum of the ball over the time of acceleration., dt.

dt can be approximated as the contact distance / tangential speed of the wheel , v.

The contact distance is about 3 cm so

dt= .03/6= .005 s

d(m*v) = .06*6 = .36 kg*m/s

hence F = .36/.005 =   72 newtons

Normal force on ball F_n = F/u_friction .    The normal (compression)  force on the ball is then

F_n = 72 newtons  assuming a u_friction = 1 which is possible with a sticky wheel.

The assumed  compression distance is about 1 in or 2.54 cm.  (To be verified later)

Hence Ec = F_n*d/2 = 72*.0254/2 = .91 joules. 

With good design, the friction loss in the drive train can be small (maybe .1 joules) so lets assume that E_c + E_f  are about equal to the K= 1.06 j so

p_avg = 2*K/t = 1.06*2= 2.12 watts   or 1.06 watts per motor.

We know the vex 393 motors have a max power = max_speed*max_torque/4 or about 4.5 watts  but they will overheat if run continuously at this power.   The PTC fuses will stop the motors if they run continuously with currents equivalent to more than  25% maximum torque (speeds less than 75% max speed).    At this operating point, the motors only deliver  3/4 max power or 3.4 watts.

There are also friction losses from the teeth of the spur gears.   I usually assume about 5% per 5:1 ratio.    A shooter wheel with a 25:1 gearing would lose 10% torque or energy at a given speed.

So the net power to the shooter wheel will be  .9*3.4 =  3.0 watts which is more than the 1 watt that we require.         

Extra friction?    

If the gear train has pressure on the axles from bearing blocks and possibly the collars are too tight so the wheels slow down quickly when coasting with motors disconnected, then over heating can easily occur.   e.g.  if friction uses up just 15% of the available torque, the motors will have to provide about 1 watt extra. which cuts our margin considerably.

Faster shot rate?

We assumed 1 shot per second…what happens with 2 shots per second….¬†¬† Well, the power requirements almost double since we are using twice as much energy per unit time.¬†¬†¬† We would likely have to add extra motors.

OpenROV debuts during Algalita 2014 POPS International Youth Summit at Dana Point Ocean Institute

April 5, 2014

The Team with Capt Moore


OpenROV going into demo tank


OpenROV on Display

Our Robodox Algalita OpenROV build team attended the subject conference and gave Captain Charles Moore and crew their first look at the OpenROV that will be used to survey fish habitat located in plastic pollution during their July expedition to the Pacific Gyre.   See this video for Capt Moore interview.

Here¬†is a link to the team summit report posted in our blog “Robodox Engineering ROV for ORV”

We had a short tank demo with a missing thruster… but at least we were able to go in circles:) Thanks to Dave L. for trying to get us new motors on the spur of the moment. We now have things back to normal and will proceed with salt water testing next week.

I was excited to finally get onboard the Alguita ORV and see how we might deploy the ROV. The girls on the team were more excited to see surfer-singer Jack Johnson!


Here are all the images from the conference…. sure was a beautiful place to meet.


OIMG_6150 IMG_6152 IMG_6153 IMG_6155 IMG_6156 IMG_6158 IMG_6161 IMG_6162 IMG_6163 IMG_6166 IMG_6168 IMG_6171 IMG_6172 IMG_6173 IMG_6174 IMG_6177 IMG_6178 IMG_6179 IMG_6181 IMG_6184 IMG_6185 IMG_6186 IMG_6187 IMG_6188 IMG_6189 IMG_6190 IMG_6191 IMG_6193 IMG_6196 IMG_6197 IMG_6198 IMG_6199 IMG_6200 IMG_6203 IMG_6207 IMG_6208 IMG_6209 IMG_6210 IMG_6211 IMG_6213 IMG_6214 IMG_6216 IMG_6217 IMG_6218 IMG_6219 IMG_6223 IMG_6224 IMG_6225 IMG_6226 IMG_6228 IMG_6231 IMG_6233 IMG_6234 IMG_6235 IMG_6238 IMG_6244 IMG_6245 IMG_6246 IMG_6248 IMG_6249 IMG_6250 IMG_6251 IMG_6252 IMG_6254 IMG_6255 IMG_6256 IMG_6257 IMG_6258 IMG_6259 IMG_6260 IMG_6261 IMG_6262 IMG_6263 IMG_6264 IMG_6265 IMG_6266 IMG_6268 IMG_6270 IMG_6272 IMG_6273 IMG_6275 IMG_6276 IMG_6277 IMG_6278 IMG_6283 IMG_6285 IMG_6287 IMG_6288 IMG_6289 IMG_6290 IMG_6292 IMG_6295 IMG_6297 IMG_6298 IMG_6300 IMG_6301 IMG_6302 IMG_6303 IMG_6309 IMG_6311 IMG_6312 IMG_6313 IMG_6315 IMG_6316 IMG_6317 IMG_6318 IMG_6320 IMG_6333 IMG_6337 IMG_6338 IMG_6339 IMG_6346 IMG_6347 IMG_6350 IMG_6352 IMG_6353 IMG_6355 IMG_6356


Robodox performs well at 1st Week FRC Inland Empire Regional

March 5, 2014

Robodox performs well at 1st Week FRC Inland Empire Regional

GHCHS Team 599 Robodox attended the 2014 Inland Empire Regional FRC competition. We collected the Engineering Design award and also the competition finalist award and medals. It was a well run competition and we had a great time. Once again we had a top performing robot that got beat by a stronger no 1 alliance. We made an operational mistake  in the finals that cost us the first match by breaking communication during setup and causing our Crio to need resetting after the match started and we sat out the Autonomous plus some seconds.    Our alliance partners 294 and 4139 were having functional problems in the second so we were soundly trounced by the winning alliance led by 1678 citrus circuits who teamed up 399 and 4161.   The 2nd final match (see video) was a thing of beauty with 1678 and 399 performing two truss catches and racking up a 229 to 72 score.  Hopefully we can redeem ourselves at  our next regional  in Sacramento where we will once again tangle with 1678 citrus circuits from Davis.   Also, thanks again to 294 for selecting us for the direct eliminations.

Winning the engineering design award means a lot to us since this year we focused on doing a 3D Solidworks design supported by solid prototyping. All fabrication was done based upon automated drawings made from the 3D model. This the best looking robot we have done in years and clearly the most durable. See this post for picture.
Lots more pictures on my facebook page.
The choo-choo catapult reset mechanism performed well so long as we kept the linkages in good order. The high forces caused holes in the linkages to elongate after a day worth of shooting. This was anticipated so we brought three spares and used them all. We will use steel linkages rather than aluminum at our next competition so they should last longer.

Robodox also ran the robot First Aid Station and the spare parts booth. We also had on display our underwater ROV which will be used by Algalita Research Foundation to do plastic pollution exploration in the Pacific Gyre this summer.

Algalita OPENROV ready for testing

February 25, 2014


I wanted to share what the Robodox Algalita ROV engineering team has been up to for the last two months.  See Robodox Engineering ROV for ORV blog post : Feburary Status Update .   I am happy with their progress and we expect to have the underwater robot ready for the Algalita summer voyage.

Relevant posts:

Dec 20 2013 OpenROV Berkeley Trip

Robodox 599 Algalita 2014 Youth Summit Video Submission

Use of Robotics to support Algalita research into the Pacific garbage patch


http://robodoxrov.wordpress.com (build blog)

Algalita ROV project facebook page