Getting My Robot Under Control – Part 2

Maxwell's performance during the movement cycling test improved a lot with the addition of the 'fullstop' subroutine. After executing 5 iterations of the movement cycle his longitudinal axis alignment was within 5 degrees of where it started, but the X, Y positioning of his center was still offset by roughly the same distance as the earlier tests. It was a huge improvement, no question, but there are still some underlying problems to deal with.

In order to sort out what might be happening, I propped Maxwell up on some spare batteries (they happened to be just the right height to get his wheels off the ground, and they were handy), drew a reference line on a piece of Post-It note, setup my digital camera to video the test, and then put him through his paces.

It became immediately obvious that the servo was creeping when it should have been motionless. A quick check showed that the other servo was exhibiting the same behavior, though the magnitude was considerably different. A little bit of internet surfing revealed that I should have zeroed the servos before I installed them into Maxwell's chassis....

Download 041128_servo_zero.wmv (100 kb)

Oh well, live and learn. Now I have two choices (at least two, there may be more.) I can disassemble the robot and zero the servos, then reassemble, or I can zero them in software. My immediate choice, perhaps wrong for the long term, is to zero them in the software. I suspect that the zero setting will change over time as the servo wears, or anytime I have to change a servo. My rationale is that if I build zero offsets into my code as defined constants, then it will be easy to change them universally later if that becomes necessary. Designing a program to determine the zero settings should be very straight forward, though I have some concerns about the possible effects of hysteresis on the zero settings.

Another 'learning' from my experience with Maxwell so far is that I will have to start labeling everything - i.e. putting small tags on the servos, cables, etc. and documenting it in my logs, photos, and videos. It's already become important to keep track of which servo is which. Later, as I start adding sensors and other circuitry, it will become even more important.


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