Pick-up-the-Can August 2009

Pick-up-the-Can August 2009

by Jef Mangelschots

Thomas Messersmidt came up with a new contest called pick-up-the-can. The purpose is to pick up a randomly placed empty soda can and move it out the area. This contest is a preclude to having a humanoid go and fetch you a cold beer from the fridge. A very very early preclude. It is also a refreshing diversion from the other contests, which are all mobile robots navigating some course. This contest is about manipulation.

For this first edition, we focused on RC robots. Usually RSSC is mostly interested autonomous robotics, but having your robot detect a randomly placed object and direct a multi-joint arm to negotiate it's end-effector arm around the can and pick it up is NOT easy. That is why we start simple: RC. Which is not to say we do not want to see autonomous robots. If you got'm, we wanna see'm.

And actually we were very fortunate to see one. Bob Huss brought his garbage-can robot which he built several decades ago using an old garbage can and a Z80 processor, programmed in assembly. After some tweaks, twists and a rain-dance, it actually detected the can, successfully negotiated an approach to position the arm and pick it up, autonomously. An RSSC exclusive. 

We will hold more of these in years to come. We hope that more autonomous bots will follow. Stay tuned, ...


Martin brought a robotarm built from a Lynxmotion Servo Erector set. But Martin would not be Martin if he would not make it more complicated for himself. Instead of controlling it with a joystick type robot control, he cobbled together a Wii Nunchuck controller interface. And it worked, but needs some refinement. Martin found out why everyone else is still using a joystick. It ain't easy, but it can be done.


Paul brought a VEXplorer.


This clever little critter is built out of not much more that a couple of servo's, metal wire and RC control:

Ron made this scary looking contraption from a VEX kit.

Thoma brought an Edge robotic arm:

Here is Bob Huss' autonomous garbage can robot:

Well, it worked yesterday ...








Here is Martin, vigorously trying to inflict an RSI on himself:



Hey, I am not a can ...





THis was actually our first autonomous entry for the pick-up-the-can contest. This garbage-can-turned-autonomous-robot was built in the 80-ties uses the Z80. It was rescued from the garbage and revived. After several tries, it was actually able to detect the can and pick it up.