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iRobot Create Submission: Automatic Field Chalker/Painter Answered

Hello fellow Instructablites,

As both an athlete and innovator, I am constantly looking for fun, easy, and creative ways to circumvent mundane tasks or activities. One specific task I've noticed many a time is chalking or spray painting line dimensions onto a playing field or court.

For some sports, such as baseball and driveway basketball, the playing fields are chalked instead of painted. The lines are time and again washed away by a rain storm and it must be done over. With soccer fields, the painting must be done once a season, plus the second coat for playoffs. Basketball courts must be taped once a season as well.

What compels me so much to create such a bot is the degree of simplicity that can be achieved for these tasks. There is so much complexity in laying out a correct set of lines and arcs. From circular three point arcs to proper dimensions of a volleyball court, there is plenty of room for human mistakes. A fully automatic Roomba would be able to both speed up and eliminate incorrect, and potentially gerrymandered, field lines. They will be pre-programmed on the bot and selected for what particular field it is designated to line.

I am convinced that all of these types of tasks can be implemented into an "iRobot Create" to lessen the burden and hassle of the aforementioned activities. My brother Steve and I have developed this idea and fully believe it can be implemented well within out intellectual boundaries.

After reading some of the comments we've received, we are now taking into consideration some new ideas. In-route Calibration. We aim to implement an accelerometer to keep the dead reckoning honest. Chalking repository. Instead of heaving all the chalk around in one huge battery draining load, we are considering using chalk/paint stations to refill the coating supply. Hopefully this will keep power usage at a minimum. Tank treads. These will probably enhance the fielder chalker/painter in every way, since it will be used outdoors.

Thank you for taking the time to read our entry!

Nick and Steve


This product is on the market, sold by TurfTank. The product is called "Intelligent Marking" out of Denmark. Just saw a demo and I'm very impressed.


2 years ago

has there been any progress on this iRobot?
Can you pls contact me. I'm interested in selling this.

Has anyone ever heard of Logo? It's a very old conceptual creation tool used to teach basic programming skills to elementary kids and used in older robots for cutting designs, etc. It has plenty of issues but with todays robotics, it seems like this kind of thing should be a no-brainer. There are already plenty of grass cutting robots on the market today, as well as many other industrial robots from the likes of iRobot. So why is this still a gimmick instead of a noteworthy product on-sale right now? Do people just not want this kind of thing?

But would it really be more efficient to return and get more chalk? That adds the need to return from wherever the robot happens to be when, and then carry the chalk back. One would have to strike a precise balance with the carried volume, and would also take some path-optimization so it can figure out where along its route is the best place to return for a refill.

Why not change your setup to make it slightly larger, and run it with a small propane engine, much like a fork lift or lawn mower. This way you would have power and fuel to burn. Batteries would only be needed for starting, and running the computer. Now, you should be able to haul pretty much all of the paint or chalk that you need.

This is a awesome idea anything to get out of work is a winner by my standards!! I do have a f question though. -Well, Like Nacho said weight is one issue and another is how are you going to keep the robot aligned with your layout? -I can give you this much (if you haven't thought of this already!), I would add a track system (like whats on tanks) and a cheap GPS to help keep it on course. -I know the GPS works, because commercial farm sprayers use them for setups like this, except they stay in straight lines. Best of Luck!

Yes, the weight is an issue. We're considering both spray paint applications as well as an extra pair of wheels. Until we get a Roomba, we won't know the weight/energy consumption ratio. Hopefully, by attaching an extra set of wheels, we could also add more batteries with the added space that would more than account for the extra wheels. I doubt solar would be feasible, but I'll check into what kinda of wattage we'd get. I also doubt GPS would be precise enough... A dead reckoning system would be easier to program, and relative positions could be obtained with a dual axis accelerometer. Really, weight and enough energy are our primary concerns. Still, we want to see how much juice that bugger has in it! Thanks though for the constructive concerns/ideas! Keep 'em coming!

With such relatively long distances, I think relying on dead reckoning would lead to some pretty serious drift issues. If you don't want to go GPS you could use some sort of local transmitter (or three) so that you could use triangulation to recalibrate ever few metres or so.

. To supplement dead reckoning, you might be able to use some type of marker, say at the corners and other major points of interest, to recalibrate position.

That's actually an intriguing idea... should be pretty feasible, too... Thanks!

. If you use a "guide wire," tell the 'bot to stop marking if it loses the signal.

Trialex is right (in my opinion) if gps is out then lay out some wire in the pattern you wish the robot to follow. I think you also have to supply power to the wire and the bot follows the electromagnetic field, look into that if that appeals to you. Remember, this is a large field with irregularities (pot holes, dips, and hills) that could send it off course very easily.

I know the basic Create platform isn't designed to haul heavy loads, but with modification your goal can be achieved.I would try seeing if you could get the robot to make multiple "return, charge, and reload" method to get the job done. Otherwise, you may need to install bigger motors, gear down the motors for torque, I would add treaded tracts (to spread out the load and improve traction over soft soil.), maybe use solar panels to supplement power, use lighter weight batteries such as Lithium Polymer (be careful with those), and you may need to lift it up of the ground some to. So it won't bog in the grass or fight it! All in all you may need to invest a bit of $$$ to accomplish this goal if you do not have spare parts on hand.

. Will a Create have enough power to carry the paint/chalk needed for the job?

A fresh chalking on a senior league baseball field (about 310 feet to the fence) takes approximately 1 whole bag of chalk - 50 pounds. A soccer field would take even more. I work for a Parks and Recreation agency and would love a bot like this. We chalk our baseball fields quite often (it takes less to do a field once there are lines down). The precision that a robot could provide would be unequaled. Between this and a pool cleaning robot (better than the commercial ones available now) i'm excited about the future of robots in recreation!

. Don't get me wrong, it's a great (maybe even fantastic) idea. I just have serious doubts that a Create is the proper platform for that much weight and the distance that it will have to travel. . But I'm no engineer. Nor do I portray one on TV. heehee