When Melanie Steiner contacted me some time ago with a question about using joystick control in combination with the Mindsensors NXTServo controller, I got curious. What was she making?  It turned out she is one of the members of a small group of students in Switzerland who were taking part in a contest.  The task was to make a system that could transport as much “building materials” to the top of a simulated mountain side.  Materials were placed in hard-to-get-to places so they had to develop a mechanism that allowed them to get to these.  Additionally, the system had to weigh less than 3.5 kilos and had to be installable in 2 minutes! Said Melanie:

Our team decided to approach this task with a multifunctional intake mechanism, which is able to gather every kind of the materials and at the same time represents the vessel to transport them.

This lead us to a “shovel and wiper” system. To change the altitude of it, we chose a frame-work. The advantages are: achieving a long range and at the same time being able to shrink drastically so we could place it in the valley station. Furthermore a frame-work is very stable and light at the same time due to it’s design. To reach the right and left side of the terrain, we used a rail as guideway. To move the system along it, we installed a rope which pulls it in the desired direction. We used 3 NXT Motors and 3 Servos to achieve the movement. Motor A moves the rope of the rail. Motor B changes the altitude of the frame-work and Motor C moves the Cogwheel in the intake mechanism. Servo 1 moves the shovel, Servo 2 the rack, so we could change the altitude of the wiper. And Servo 3 moves the wiper itself.

We used a PS3 Controller to steer our system. The software is written with RobotC. Steering the Servos was only possible with the 3rd Party Driver Suite programmed by Xander Soldaat. At this point, our team would like to express our gratitude to Xander, who kindly helped us with a special and very essential function in the Software…

Here are some pictures of their awesome system:

CAD-Analyse 3 Inno_KittyVP5
A sideways view of the terrain and the cable cart system.  As you can see, some of the materials are “buried” underneath a ledge, so a simple pick-up system does not work. A detailed rendered CAD picture of the system.  They combined the NXT motors and standard servos with other materials.
image IMAG0141
Frickin’ laser beams to cut the parts. It looks like a very complicated puzzle, but then the Swiss are well known for their precision machinery.
IMAG0145 Kitty_in_Box IMG_0973
The grabbing mechanism The assembled cart and grabber Two team members assembling the cart
Team Hello Kitty
The team members (in no particular order): Michael Schmalz, Timon Brändli, Manuel Dangel, Tamara Weissenbach and Melanie Steiner.

I am sure by now you’re probably very curious to see the whole thing actually working.  The good news is that they’ve posted a video on YT and you can watch it right here:

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