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May 20 2006 DARPA Conference

Well they've disqualified the SSIK Mick, for legitimate reasons. We will be able to enter 2 S.S.I.C. hybrid cobra muscle car under special provision. Happily they have disqualified many of the CMU tricks as well. I'm hoping that they will disallows outside maps and imagery. I can very much see some of the teams having a survey aircraft ready to fly over the test area during the 24 hour period before the race.

factory five cobra coupe

May 2006 Next DARPA Urban Challenge invite.

This leaves a quandary, We have already started the hybrid cobra muscle car build. We are going to finish the cobra first, do a publicity tour, and then we are thinking about maybe taking our vehicles to work with a local high school / college to have the manpower this time.


June 6 <didn't make list>

We Just got the news; we did not make the cut for the race. If it is run next year well, we'll be nine months ahead of where we started :) in the meantime onto other projects... Current thoughts are try to get on Monster Garage, Scrapheap Challenge, build a hybrid custom motorcycle (I have most of the parts on our bench tester), and build a 65 Coupe from FactoryFive racing.

Already posted to Monster Garage's 'Show us your welds'


June 6 <waiting for list>

Patience is now gone :)

For those of you who are interested, even though I am thinking about other projects to do if we don't get chosen, I still plan on finishing the vehicle. It is just a matter of timing and priorities. If we don't get selected I plan on working on it for human drivable first; and doing a couple projects to recharge myself. Also if I don't make it, put what I've done into an audition tape for Monster Garage and Scrapheap Wars (original UK series from which Junkyard Wars came from).

This will be updated after I know the results :)


June 4,5 <Weekend before announcement>

<Random Thoughts>

OK, I managed to wait like three week with no anticipation. Now the weekend before the announcement I'm tightly wound. I decided that I want to build a hybrid motorcycle if I don't make the cut. I figure I can have the electrical part in on a weekend. I realize that this is in part transference / sour grapes.

I am having lots of odd thoughts, like 'how do I expect to be able to build something like this with a lot of help from my friends'. Then I think, well I built 2 augmentative speech devices for two disabled kids is like two months including building scratch power supplies, software, LCD, etc. And then I think about stripping a car and dropping engine, tranny, and brakes, in 6 hours as an audition for Junk Yard Wars.


Week 2 - Post Site Visit

First slept and goofed off a lot.

Simulated disk brake steering redneck style - put a hardwood hammer handle in the wheels on one side and disconnected their motor controller, then applied 10% power to the other side. Worked well! So I need to fab some caliper brackets (or have Metro Welding fab some) and order a couple linear actuators + computer control and we will have both the skid turning (below 25 mph) and the emergency brake that we need.


Week ?? - Site Visit

Well we went to the site visit trial and managed to not fail. We got the AI software working at its first level 1. All the motors responded, and the car turns fine at over 25mph (but not below). In fact I would say that our car did as good as any non-turning autonomous robotic vehicle could (I was up at 4am the previous 3 days working on the AI).

More to come when I recover - first pictures <couldn't take pictures on base, they took them for us though, and after review they will send them to us>


Week 4-Site Visit post video

Got Bottom protective cage welded and bolted in (with Metro Welding).

Spent 3 weeks (part time) writing software to make new controllers brake (which old controllers did automatically). Many of the resultant routines would have been needed anyway.

Ordered GPS with inertial (gyroscope) module.

Ordered 3 axis electronic compass with tilt that does everything you can image a compass doing and costing more than you can image paying for a compass.

2 weeks till sight visit theme song now "Now Sleep till Brooklyn"


Week 3 post video

Didn't get all the parts I needed by the weekend. They are all scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. Have organized people for a Tuesday night build and Wednesday a long lunch.

Started an advice / what I would do defiantly page.

Got all the parts in on Tuesday. Tested controllers got one wheel hooked up an tested in the air! Need an addition 30 connectors and bunches of cables to get it hooked up, but hey I believe that they will work. I BELIEVE!!!!!, but I still will have one person on kill switch and one on fire extinguisher. I estimate that it is about 20 man hours to get these hooked up (the last ones were 2.5 man hours), but that's OK.

I estimated time wrong. We have about 30 man hours in plus 10 that I was forgetting to count. We have made all of the wire, made 4 new circuits to negotiate with the new controllers, rewritten our software to talk with the controllers, and gained confidence in the new controllers, simply by there refusal to do anything! (well refusal to do anything with any fault. The relays make up for some of the mad scientist that was lost. I figure we have another 5 hours and SSIK will be ready for more test runs.

I'm craving a junkyard wars style build. All this measuring and quality is getting old.

The new controllers work, there were two ground fault fires that burned up 3 fuses and 2 wires.

Our Video was accepted for Site Visit! This does not mean I'm taking Urban Dance Squad "Say A Little Prayer for My Demo" of the playlist <We have just renamed the site visit Demo 2, and the Qualifier Demo 3, the Race I'm thinking 'The Main Event'>


Week 2 post video

Decided that after this much work I'm not giving up, and so it was time to order everything I need for the next stage (the site visits).
I gave up on Roboteq controllers. Spent three days this week trying to find some MillipaK controllers (supposed to be designed to work with our motors). This is the 3rd time I have tried to get these controllers and everyone is sold out (still). I call the distributors, politely explain my plight (mention the fires in passing, and that we really need there controllers, everyone is sold out, etc.) Get sympathy, and promises of controllers. The person I talk actually goes to some effort on our behalf! I look forward to having their controllers and am now having the debate "Do I just trust them; or do I try and build a protective circuit for them?" I think I'll go with partial trust. I'll hook one up and see if it catches on fire or not :) As was pointed out, for all I know if we put in a protective circuit it will be like FIRE # 2. Where the protective circuit failed and cause more damage than the original problem.
Also ordered a SICK (not S.S.I.K) Ladar system that I plan on using as the primary obstacle detecting device for site visits.


Weekend 1 post video

Every bit of free time on weekend (plus cash) used to get roll cage. I am of mixed feeling about the roll cage. It is good, strong, and needed. But it takes the look away from the Mad Scientist into the functional tractor like feel. Of well I guess I'll have to add more electronics :)



1st-3rd Days Post Video


1st Week Post Video

Return defective parts to retailers. Won't take one of the serial cables back because its doesn't have driver disk. I hope they plug them in <evil laugh>. I did warn them that the parts started a fire.

Return extra parts to Home Depot (electrical boxes, etc.)

Make arrangements to exchange the motor controllers. They company Roboteq is very nice. They come up with a compromise that make me happy and agree to drop ship the replacements.

Order PCI Serial card, install and test.

Make arraignments to have Roll Cage made and do testing on weekend.

Started to understand Urban Dance Squad song "Say a Little Prayer for My Demo". And dug it up from my music collection to listen to.

Got in new motor controllers, they are the wrong models, but they will work so I installed them (it took an extra 1.5 hours to move the encoders over, and they won't put out as much power, but hey they are here).

Son of a ........... - Fire #7 (smoke, but no visible fire from controllers). Apparently the problem is that the motors are generating something that nothing can handle so far. The latest 2 controllers smoked after passing the low speed test, going to full speed forward and reverse, smoke from both controllers (not supposed to be possible). Well I'm going to call the motor place and quiz them on the controller designed specifically for these motors. It's too bad I don't cry over stuff like this... OK, so my choices are 1. get new controllers that someone will tell me is going to work, quit, buy new motors and controllers (probably 12k), try to build a circuit that has serious clamping on spikes that would protect the controllers.

<Poker reference> I now feel I understand how Phil Hellmuth feels like when they interview him after getting knocked out of a tournament. I used to feel that he was, shall we say, overly emotional. Yesterday I felt the same way. I had victory in my hands (well in my mind at least) and then, through no fault of my own, smoke. I can just order different parts, and I suppose Phil can just enter another tournament.

What we plan to add to vehicle still

Add a roll cage. DONE
Add lights and register the car with state of California.
Add a diamond plate floor that will protect the electronics. This will include brush guards and be set up to float the vehicle.
We have all the sensors we need for the site visit demonstration, and probably complete the course. We plan on adding Laser 3d imagers (first one has been order will ship 3/23 from 60 miles away), additional IR camera, good differential GPS with correction. We have moneys set aside for these and will be ordering them after finding out if we are accepted to compete.
Add my spare stereo (dynaco 120 watt class A amp plus some bose 201's). Create a play list and have it play theme music while it drives :)

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