Steering Drive Systems in Font

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Steering Drive Systems
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A steering drive system is what most cars use to turn; in a robot, you would have a single motor powering the robot and then a second motor controlling the steering. You would most likely have a differential gear system on the drive wheels to prevent skidding and some kind of rack system on the front steering mechanism. With LEGO robots, systems like this can be a bit more difficult to build but can be done with a little patience. There are multiple variations for a steering drive robot. You can have two wheels that turn, like on a car, or have a single steering wheel that controls the steering. When having two wheels that steer, you have to be concerned about wheel skid, since both steering wheels are pivoting on their own pivot points and not on a common point. Cars overcome this problem by using Ackerman steering correction. This is a geometry that reduces the skid of the wheels by forcing the steering wheels to turn along the same steering arc. Without Ackerman correction, the steering wheels will turn on different steering arcs, forcing them to skid and throw off your robot s odometry calculations. A single steering wheel such as on a tricycle will prevent this problem, since you then only have to deal with a single turning arc instead of two. The advantage to a steering drive system is that you have separated the drive system from the steering system, so you no longer have to worry about issues like motor matching and keeping two motors rotations in sync. This is great for situations in which you re using odometry. A disadvantage to using steering drive is that turning into tight spots is not as easy as it is with a differential steering system. A differential steering system has a zero turning radius, while a steering drive robot must move some distance as it turns. As with a car, you can turn the steer wheels all you want, but a robot with a steering drive system won t actually start to turn until it moves either forward or backward. You ll see many lawn tractors that now use a zero turn radius system so they can get into tight spots when cutting a lawn, versus a traditional lawn tractor that might have to back up and make multiple attempts to reach a hard-to-access patch of grass. One of the biggest disadvantages that I have found with steering drive robots is that when a robot is running in autonomous mode, such as FLL robots, it s very hard to keep track of when the robot is pointed straight. Even with the built-in rotation sensors in the NXT servos, you still can never be 100 percent sure that the robot s steering is tracking straight. If the robot is remote controlled, it s easy for the human operator to adjust the steering back to straight, but it s a much larger task with autonomous LEGO robots. I have never seen any real benefits of going with such a design in a LEGO robots competition such as FLL.
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CHAPTER 4 CONSISTENT TURNING
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Calculating Turns
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There are two different ways to turn a differential steering robot: by turning both wheels or by only turning one wheel and pivoting on the stationary wheel. The trick is to figure out how much you should turn the wheel to get the desired turning position. Bear in mind that, while we can accurate calculate the proper degrees needed for a precision turn, we are still dealing with LEGO robots that are not precision machines. No matter how accurate your math, any LEGO robot that you build will still need some final tweaking.
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Note: There is about six to eight degrees of gear slack in a LEGO NXT servo, so getting accurate movements down within a few degrees will not be possible. Always allow some room for error when turning.
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