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MSE110 Report IV by Siddhant Modi


Final Project Maze

Introduction
The aim of this project was very straightforward to build a robot that could solve a maze made up
of blue lines on a 5x7 grid and then find the most efficient way back to the starting point. Many
factors had to be considered while working on this project; the key ones being the mechanical
design of the robot, i.e. choosing between either a fixed light sensor, a light sensor attached to a
crank slider mechanism or a light sensor moving in a circular arc and the software corresponding to
each type design. Designing a dynamic system that would keep track of the robots position and
orientation was another challenge of this project.

Overview
The Hardware
There werent many constraints placed on the mechanical aspect of this project. There were simple
requirements the robot must keep track of the blue line efficiently as well as move along the maze
and make turns with precision. Another design aspect that we kept in mind was having a very small
turning radius so that the robot would turn right on the spot and hence eliminate the chances of its
position changing while it turned. The most important part of the mechanical structure was the light
sensor and the mechanism responsible for its movement. Table 1 explains briefly the options we
had to choose from:
Mechanism
Fixed Light Sensor

Description
Just like the name says, the light sensor is fixed in one position and is
not moved through the course of the maze.
Crank Slider Mechanism
A crank slider mechanism converts rotational motion of the servos to
linear motion the light sensor oscillates in a horizontal line.
Rotational Motion
The light sensor is directly connected to the motor via beams and the
sensor then oscillates in a circular arc
Table 1 Summary of the three different mechanisms available
Table 2 summarises the considerations that were made before taking a decision. We abandoned the
idea of a fixed light sensor as it would have been very inefficient and time consuming to get the
robot to check the sides at every vertex. We chose the crank slider over the rotational motion as
there would certainly be less error associated with it and it worked perfectly with the software ideas
we had in mind.
The precision aspect was taken care of by using gears to step down the default gear ratio of the
servos and thus reduce the error associated with the motor encoder values.

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Mechanism Fixed Light Sensor
Type
The bad
Not very efficient the
robot needs to turn
right and left at every
node to check for
availability of turns.

The good

No need for a 3rd motor


and no need for keeping
track of encoder values.

Crank Slider mechanism

Rotational motion

The position of the light


sensor needs to be tracked
-impossible to use the
collected data without
knowing where the light
sensor got the information

Similar problem as the crank


slider. The position needs to
be tracked.
Since the encoder needs to
be reset often, error piles
up.
The circular motion means
there are chances the robot
might miss corners and
hence miss a turn.
Again, the robot will not
have to turn at each node to
check the options it has on
the sides.

Efficient the robot will


scan the availabilities of
turns at each junction
without having to turn left
or right.
Table 2 Pros and Cons associated with each mechanism

The Software
The software was the larger chunk of work for this project. The following list outlines the objectives that
the software aimed to accomplish:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Keep track of the position and orientation of the robot.


Keep track of the position of the light sensor.
Store the data collected by the light sensor and analyse it.
Stay on the blue line using the information collected.
Navigate through the maze using the Right Wall Following algorithm.
Store the details relating to each coordinate the robot visits, such as the availability of turns
in a structure.
7. Get rid of dead end paths.
8. Come back to the start via the shortest possible path.
Each of these objectives was assigned to individual functions. The functions were all interrelated and
often, one function called another. Switch statements were used in a high number as many decisions
made by the robot would depend on the orientation of the robot, i.e. whether it faced North/East/South
or West. For example, if the robot was facing North, it would check the East direction for a right turn but
it the robot was facing East, it would have to check the South direction for the availability of a right turn.
Switch statements help work through such situations efficiently. Since RobotC does not support dynamic
variables, global variables had to be used in some places. The encoder values for the motors were used
frequently to calculate how much the robot had moved and where the crank slider was.

HARDWARE
The wheels and gear ratios

Image 1 Stepping down of the gears and the centre of rotation


A gear ratio of 1:1.6 was used which helped step down the gears by 62.5%. This helped in the
reduction of errors. The red ellipses in Image 1 show the arrangement of the gears. The wheel base
was also minimized and the horizontal blue lines in Image 1 show the width of this wheel base.
The white circle shows the centre of rotation of the robot. Hence, in comparison with the size of the
entire robot, it can be seen that the robot would indeed turn right on the spot with a very small
turning radius. In practice, this design backfired on us a little bit as due to the inaccuracy of the
encoder values, if the robot turned more or less than the specified amount, its deviation from the
required position would be relatively high. It was too late by the time we realised this to be a flaw in
our design. A wider wheel base would have eliminated this error.

The Crank Slider Mechanism


This structure was initially
developed as a separate part
and then it was tweaked in
order to fit the robot. The robot
was also modified at the same
time in order to accommodate
this structure. Image 2 shows
the top view of the crank slider
part of the robot.

Image 2 Top view of the crank slider

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The red circle shows the light sensor and the orange one shows the motor. The blue line runs along
the LT Steering gear this part connects the servo and the light sensor and helps convert rotational
motion to linear motion. The green line shows the range through which the light sensor moves. The
beams that surround the central mechanism give strength to the structure and help support the
light sensor while not causing any obstruction to its movement at the same time. Image 3 shows a
side view of this structure.
The biggest advantage of this design
was its range. Due to the large
range, the light sensor could easily
cover both sides of the blue line and
thus give accurate information
relating to the availability of turns.
The flaw that came with this design
was the fact that the constant
motion of the light sensor caused
slight jerks to the entire robot
causing it to drift of path a little.

Image 3 Side view of the crank slider

The structure as a whole


The main chassis was designed around the
NXT Brick and two motors on its sides. From
there, we were about to build a mount for the
crank slider structure. We ensured that we
did all we could to make the robot structurally
strong. Using a network of different beams
allowed us to do so. Image 4 shows the
bottom view of the robot. Note that the
beams running between the wheels ensure
that the wheel cannot have any sort of
vertical motion. Angled beams were used in
abundance to help strengthen the structure.

Image 4 Bottom view of the robot

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The robot could not move along a straight line for a given cell block but besides that, there were no
noticeable faults.
Overall, the structure served its purpose. It could very well move along the maze and get light
sensor data efficiently from both sides of the line. Good software to accompany this design would
ensure that it solved the maze. The following images show the robot from several different angles.

Image 5 Angled views of the robot

Image 7 Side view of the robot


Image 6 Top view of the robot

SOFTWARE
Global variables
Table 3 displays all the global variables that were used in the software
Variable Name
orientation
xPos
yPos
targetX
targetY
originX
originY
leftPower
rightPower
adjustPower
crankPower
maze

Data Type
Int

Description
0-N, 1-E, 2-S, 3-W keeps track of direction the
robot is facing
Int
Current x-coordinate of the robot w.r.t. the origin
Int
Current y-coordinate of the robot w.r.t. the origin
Int
Target x-coordinate of the robot w.r.t. the origin
Int
Target y-coordinate of the robot w.r.t. the origin
Int
x-coordinate of the starting point
Int
y-coordinate of the starting point
Int
Speed for the left motor
Int
Speed for the right motor
Int
Speed added to the motor speeds for adjustment
Int
Speed for the crank-slider motor
6x8 array (int*)
Matrix that stores information about each vertex
Table 3 List of the global variables used by the program

The mazeVertex structure data type


A new variable type was defined in order to assist
with keeping track of the details relating to each
vertex that was a part of the maze. The structure
consisted of 6 member variables four of them
stored information relating to the availabilities of
turns in each of the 4 directions. The Boolean
variable visited helped the robot remember
whether it had been to a particular vertex
previously and the variable goodDirection stored
the direction facing which the robot first entered
that vertex. These last two variables helped in
finding the most efficient way back to the start.

The Functions

task main

This function is responsible for the execution of


the entire program. It is a simple function that
calls certain functions, waits for the robot to
reach the end and then call another function to
make sure that the robot goes back to the

Fig 1. Flowchart for task main function

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start. Figure 1 (previous page) shows a flowchart outlining this function.
This function uses the xPos, yPos and xTarget, yTarget global variables to check whether the robot
has reached the end of the maze. The functions it calls make use of other global variables. This task
main function does not take any arguments and does not return any value.

readSensor

The purpose of this function is to take readings from the light sensor at 3 different points the
middle, the left and the right of the blue line and then store than information in three separate
arrays. Following the analysis, it calls another function which returns an integer. readSensor then
returns that int.
One key thing to note about this function is that it depends on the light sensor being in the same
position everytime the function is called. Hence resetCrank is called at the beginning.
A lightSensor value greater than 35 indicates a white surface and that less than 33 indicates the blue
tape. Note that three ranges that are part of the conditional statements all specify three positions
of the crank the middle, the left and the right.
If more than 2/3s of an array suggests the presence of the tape, the tape is assumed to be present.
This function does not take any argumets. Fig. 2 shows the flowchart for readSensor.

Fig 2. Flowchart for the readSensor function

resetCrank

This function was designed in order to help the readSensor function. resetCrank merely takes the
light sensor back to the starting position. This function takes an argument that is the current
position of the light sensor based on which it calculates the required movement. Fig. 3 shows the
flowchart for the resetCrank function. The only factor affected on a global scale is the change in
speeds of the crank.

Fig 3. Flowchart for the resetCrank function

combination

This function serves the purpose of identifying the


combination of colours the light sensor sees at the left,
middle and right positions. For example, White Blue
White or Blue Blue White. The function takes three
boolean values as arguments and returns an integer
based on the combination. The integers each
correspond to a particular combination. The flowchart
for this function is shown in Fig 4. This function does not
interact with global variables.

Fig 4. Flowchart for the combination function

storeSideData

The function sotreSideData does exactly what its name suggests. Based on the orientation, the sides of
the robot can either be East/West or North/South. This function checks that and then stores the
information in the maze array for the structure corresponding to the current xPos and yPos.
storeSideData takes an integer (a combination) as its argument and it makes changes to the global
variable maze. Fig 5. shows the flowchart for this function.

Fig 5. Flowchart for the storeSideData function

storeForwardData

This function is very similar to the storeSideData function. What is diferent is the fact that it stores
data for the forward/backward directions. Again, the function takes an integer (a combination) as
the argument and it causes changes to elements of the global variable maze. Fig 6. (next page)
shows the flowchart for the storeForwardData function.

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visitedAndGoodDirection

This function updates the visited status for


every vertex the robot enters and saves the
direction which the robot was facing the
first time it entered the vertex.
visitedAndGoodDirection does not take any
arguments and it makes changes to
elements of the global variable maze. Figure
7 shows the flowchart for this function.

deleteDeadEnds

If the robot enters a vertex that it has been


to before, it means that the robot
enocuntered a dead end. So, the
deleteDeadEnds function changes the
direction from which the robot currently
entered the cell to a wall. This function does
not take any arguments and alters elements
of the global variable maze. The flowchart for this
function is shown in Fig 8. (next page).

Fig 6. Flowchart for the storeForwardData


function

directionPriorities

This function is essentially based on the right wall


following algorithm. It prioritizes turning in the order
of right, straight, left and turning around. This function
gives commands to the robot to move around the
maze. Hence, the global variables xPos, yPos and
orientation are indirectly altered by directionPriorities.
The function does not take any arguments. The
flowchart for this function is shown in Fig 9. (next
page).

Fig 7. Flowchart for the visitedAndGoodDirection


function

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Fig 8. Flowchart for the deleteDeadEnds function

Fig 9. Flowchart for the directionPriorities function

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goBackToStart

goBackToStart takes the robot back to the start point of the maze. It does this by making use of the
goodDirection stored for each vertex the robot visited. When run in a loop, this function traces back
to the beginning of the maze. The global variables targetX and targetY are changed to originX and
originY and the orientation, xPos and yPos are updated as the robot moves along the maze. Fig 10.
shows the flowchart for this function.

Fig 10. Flowchart for the goBackToStart function

adjustment

This function is used within the goFwd function to try and keep the robot on the blue line when it
moves straight. On a global scale, this function affects the speeds of the left and right motors and
thus also affects the corresponding encoders. Fig 11 (next page) shows the flowchart for this
function. This function accepts an integer as its argument the integer represents the current
encoder value of the crank.

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Fig 11. Flowchart for the adjustment function

goFwd

This version of the goFwd is used while going


from the start of the maze to the end. This
function makes the robot move one cell block,
i.e. from one vertex to another. The robot stops
twice on the way, once to get a reading for the
sideways options at next vertex, and once more
to get the forwards option before coming to a
final stop at the vertex. Note that the numbers
235, 110 and 365 add up to 710 that is the
encoder value measured for each cell block.
Based on the orientation, it also updates the
xPos and yPos of the robot. Other factors
affected on a global scale are the encoder
values for the crank and right motors. goFwd
does not take any arguments. The flowchart for
this function is shown in Fig 12.

Fig 12. Flowchart for the goFwd function

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goFwd2

This version of the goFwd function is used while returning to the starting position. Unlike the first
one, this function does not make any additional stops besides at the vertex itself. It affects the same
variables as goFwd on a global scale xPos and yPos along with motor encoders. A flowchart is
shown in Fig 13. for this function.

Fig 13. Flowchart for the goFwd2 function

turnLeft

The function does what its name says. At the same time, it updates the orientation. It does not
affect any other global variables. Figure 14 shows the flowchart for this function.

Fig 14. Flowchart for the turnLeft function

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turnRight

This function works pretty much the same way as the turnLeft function. The only difference is in the
way of updating the orientation. Figure shows the flowchart this function.

Fig 15. Flowchart for the turnRight function

Observations, explanation for failure and conclusion


The robot was unable to navigate through the maze on the day of the competition. All the robot did
was made a couple of turns, went forward, made a wrong turn and gave a stack-overflow error. We
believe this was due the readSensor and resetCrank functions not working as we had expected them
to. These functions seemed to be malfunctioning during the testing as well but we were unable to
diagnose the exact cause of the semantic errors. The problem comes from the fact that the
readSensor function depends on the light sensor being at the fixed starting position every time the
function is called and if the sensor is at another position, the values stored for the light readings will
be incorrect causing the robot to not see the lines correctly and hence cause problems in
navigation. The resetCrank function was designed in order to assist with doing this but there seemed
to be a logical error.
Also, there was a semantic error that we could not locate in the adjustment function as the robot
would not realign itself if it moved off the line. Hence, it had to be done manually, by hand, during
the competition.
Keeping track of the orientation and the x and y positions was essential as many other functions
depended on those values.
Logically, all the functions other than these three would have functioned correctly and the robot
would have been able to make it to the end and back, had it been able to navigate correctly as it had
the mechanical and computing abilities to do so.

(Lego Digital Designer was used to obtain images of the robot. http://www.LucidChart.com was used for
the flowcharts)