ROS Tutorial

 

For Windows, use the ConstructSim version of the tutorial.

Overview

Before we dive into ROS, let’s break down what we will be accomplishing. Our end goal is to automate a game of Snake. If you have never heard of Snake, then check out an example here. We have made a ROS adaptation of it, which is what you will be automating.

There are two parts to this tutorial:

  • Controller walkthrough: Here we will walk you through the creation of your own snake-controller. This will teach the basics of ROS and principles related to automation.
  • Controller expansion: By the end of the previous section, you will have a simple but functional controller. To strengthen your ROS skills, you will now look at improving the controller and seeing how high of score your snake can get.

Setup

If you haven’t setup ROS, please do so here.

Clone the repo into your ROS workspace src folder

git clone https://github.com/purdue-arc/arc_tutorials.git

Verification

Ensure your file structure matches the following:

catkin_ws/ <-- You should be here
│
└───src/
    │
    └───arc_tutorials/
       │
       └───clock_tutorial/ (deprecated tutorials)
       │
       └───docker/ (virtualization)
       │
       └───docs/ (setup instructions)
       │
       └───snake_tutorial/ (ROS tutorial)
       │
       └───snakesim/ (snake_tutorial backend)

We will explain the file structure in-depth later, so don’t worry if it doesn’t make any sense now.

Instructions

To complete this tutorial, simply follow each provided documents in order. Ensure you are reading thoroughly, as these tutorials are packed with tons of information.

If you run into issues, start by doing independent research. If you haven’t found a solution after sufficiently making an attempt on your own, then add your question at the botttom of this page.

Running the Snake Tutorial Example

In this section, we will be covering high-level ROS concepts and run the snake game example to see what we will be working towards.

ROS Concepts

We discussed previously what ROS is, but now we are going to dive into how ROS works.

In summary, ROS manages a system through 4 key components:

  • Nodes: These are independent processes that perform computations. Nodes often relate nicely to physical parts within a system, like a camera or an arm.
  • Messages: In order for different nodes to communicate, they need messages to define the structure of the data they are sending. If a map node wanted to tell a navigation node which way to move, it would have to use a message (like a 3-point coordinate) to pass that data.
  • Topics: Messages help define the type of data we are sending, but topics are what deliver the messages. Without topics, a node would never know where to send it’s messages. Nodes can either publish or subscribe to a topic, which means they can either receive all messages on that topic, send messages to that topic, or both.
  • Services: Topics are nice because it means nodes can send information without worrying about if another node receives it. However sometimes it may be necessary that a node receives a response from another before moving on. This is where services come in; services allow for request / reply interactions.

Here’s a helpful visualization of node communication:

Node communication

As a supplementary resource / explanation, we recommend watching this video until 5 minutes and 53 seconds.

If some of these concepts aren’t yet clear, don’t worry. Through the walkthrough we will continue to strengthen our understanding.

Snake Example

Now let’s try to apply some of the concepts we’ve learned to the snake game. We will start by running the snakesim package to see what we will be controlling.

To verify that your workspace is correct, run:

ls catkin_ws

If everything is correct, you should simply see a src/ folder. Let’s now move into our workspace by running:

cd catkin_ws

Now we need to build our workspace, which will setup our environment to run packages. This will all be explained in the next section, so hang in there. We do this with the command:

catkin build

Now if we print our directory contents again:

ls

We should see a few new folders, including a devel/ folder which is also important for configuring our environment.

Again this will be covered in the next section, so just run these commands and it will make sense soon.

source devel/setup.bash

With our workspace and environment fully configured, we can now run the packages we have stored.

Lets start by moving into our package directory:

cd src/arc_tutorials

If we print our directory again with ls, we should see 5 folders:

  • clock_tutorial/ a deprecated tutorial for ROS in C++
  • docker/ a set of tools to run ARC’s docker environment
  • docs/ the collection of documents to follow this tutorial
  • snake_tutorial/ a ROS python package to teach basic control of the snake game
  • snakesim/ a ROS python package to run the snake game

In order to run the snake simulation, we will use what is known as a launch file. It’s not important for you to know how a launch file fully works at the moment, but just know that it starts up ROS nodes in a set way so you don’t have to do it manually.

To run the launch file:

roslaunch snakesim snakesim.launch

Upon running this, two windows should appear. One shows a display of the snake game and another is a control board for the snake (this is what we will be replacing). Here’s what they look like:

Snake sim Snake control board

If you get an error message saying snakesim is not a package, then you need run: source devel/setup.bash in the catkin_ws/ directory.

If you get an error message about failing to display, it’s likely because X forwarding is incorrectly setup. Return to setup tutorial #3 for more detail.

To control the snake, you can either move it with WASD and shift keys or manually adjust the speed with the scroll bars. Play around with it and see how far you can get.

In this example, we are using only one node and that’s to control the position of the snake. Every time you adjust the speed, you are sending messages on a topic that the snake node is receiving. These messages adjust the snake’s velocity so it knows what position to move to.

Lets now close both of those windows and use CTRL + C in the console to exit the program. Next we are going to run the snake controller example to see what we are building towards.

Again we will use a launch file:

roslaunch snake_tutorial snake.launch

The snake game should appear again, but this time it should be autonomously playing the game. If you watch it long enough, eventually it will fail because its logic is very simple. By the end of this tutorial, we will have built this same controller from the ground up.

Final Notes

Congratulations, you just finished getting familiarized with the snake game and the controller! You’ll develop this same controller by following this tutorial series. In the next step, you’ll create a package to hold your controller, then you’ll write some nodes in order to control the snake.

Creating the Controller Package

Up to this point, we have explored high-level ROS concepts and ran the Snake game example controller. We will now go through practical concepts related to development within ROS.

ROS File Structure

Let’s take a deeper dive into our project file structure.

Software in ROS is organized in packages. Packages contain our nodes, launch files, messages, services and more. When working on a project, you may have multiple packages all responsible for various tasks. For instance, snakesim/ and snake_tutorial/ are both examples of packages.

Packages are often managed within a catkin workspace, which is what you setup as part of your ARC development environment.

The simplified file structure for a workspace is as follows:

catkin_ws/
│
└───src/
│   └───example_package/
│   └───another_package/
│
└───devel/
|   └─setup.bash
|
└───build/
|
└───logs/
|
└───install/

src/ is where the source code for all packages are stored. This commonly contains repositories tracked by Git.

build/ and logs/ are created when building your code. We won’t go into any detail on these.

devel/ and install/ contain executables and bash files for setting up your environment. It is optional to have an install/ directory; we won’t be using one in this tutorial. There are a few distinctions between the two that we won’t get into.

Each time you open your workspace in a new terminal you will need to source this setup file by running:

source devel/setup.bash

There is a way to do that automatically, which is covered at the end of this document.

Here is a simplified file structure for Python ROS packages (C++ is different):

example_package/
│
└───nodes/
│
└───launch/
│
└───CMakeLists.txt
│
└───package.xml

nodes/ contains node Python files for running ROS nodes. You’ll end up making several of these when following the tutorial.

launch/ contains launch files. These can launch one or more nodes and contain logic.

CMakeLists.txt is a build file used by your catkin workspace.

package.xml is a manifest that contains general package information.

Creating a New Package

We will start by moving into the src/ directory of our catkin workspace. As a reminder, you should still be within the container environment and have the following file path:

~/catkin_ws/src/

Now we will use this command to create our new package:

catkin_create_pkg snake_controller rospy geometry_msgs std_msgs snakesim tf python-angles

Looking at this command, snake_controller is the name of package and all the parameters that follow are other packages that snake_controller depends on. Don’t worry about what those packages are right now, you’ll learn about them when completing the tutorials.

Lets now move into our newly created package:

cd snake_controller/

Upon printing the directory contents, you can see have three items within our package:

  • CMakeLists.txt
  • package.xml
  • src/

In order to make things better set up for a purely Python ROS package, we’re going to modify the CMakeLists.txt and package.xml. We will also be making a few directories. If you aren’t comfortable making directories on the commandline, you can do these steps in an IDE like VS Code.

Modifying Package.xml

The package.xml file exists to capture some basic information about your package, such as the author, maintainer, license, and any dependencies that your package has. If we open the existing one, you can see it has a lot of information, and some comments about how to edit it:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<package format="2">
  <name>snake_controller</name>
  <version>0.0.0</version>
  <description>The snake_controller package</description>

  <!-- One maintainer tag required, multiple allowed, one person per tag -->
  <!-- Example:  -->
  <!-- <maintainer email="jane.doe@example.com">Jane Doe</maintainer> -->
  <maintainer email="jamesb@todo.todo">jamesb</maintainer>


  <!-- One license tag required, multiple allowed, one license per tag -->
  <!-- Commonly used license strings: -->
  <!--   BSD, MIT, Boost Software License, GPLv2, GPLv3, LGPLv2.1, LGPLv3 -->
  <license>TODO</license>


  <!-- Url tags are optional, but multiple are allowed, one per tag -->
  <!-- Optional attribute type can be: website, bugtracker, or repository -->
  <!-- Example: -->
  <!-- <url type="website">http://wiki.ros.org/snake_controller</url> -->


  <!-- Author tags are optional, multiple are allowed, one per tag -->
  <!-- Authors do not have to be maintainers, but could be -->
  <!-- Example: -->
  <!-- <author email="jane.doe@example.com">Jane Doe</author> -->


  <!-- The *depend tags are used to specify dependencies -->
  <!-- Dependencies can be catkin packages or system dependencies -->
  <!-- Examples: -->
  <!-- Use depend as a shortcut for packages that are both build and exec dependencies -->
  <!--   <depend>roscpp</depend> -->
  <!--   Note that this is equivalent to the following: -->
  <!--   <build_depend>roscpp</build_depend> -->
  <!--   <exec_depend>roscpp</exec_depend> -->
  <!-- Use build_depend for packages you need at compile time: -->
  <!--   <build_depend>message_generation</build_depend> -->
  <!-- Use build_export_depend for packages you need in order to build against this package: -->
  <!--   <build_export_depend>message_generation</build_export_depend> -->
  <!-- Use buildtool_depend for build tool packages: -->
  <!--   <buildtool_depend>catkin</buildtool_depend> -->
  <!-- Use exec_depend for packages you need at runtime: -->
  <!--   <exec_depend>message_runtime</exec_depend> -->
  <!-- Use test_depend for packages you need only for testing: -->
  <!--   <test_depend>gtest</test_depend> -->
  <!-- Use doc_depend for packages you need only for building documentation: -->
  <!--   <doc_depend>doxygen</doc_depend> -->
  <buildtool_depend>catkin</buildtool_depend>
  <build_depend>geometry_msgs</build_depend>
  <build_depend>python-angles</build_depend>
  <build_depend>rospy</build_depend>
  <build_depend>snakesim</build_depend>
  <build_depend>std_msgs</build_depend>
  <build_depend>tf</build_depend>
  <build_export_depend>geometry_msgs</build_export_depend>
  <build_export_depend>python-angles</build_export_depend>
  <build_export_depend>rospy</build_export_depend>
  <build_export_depend>snakesim</build_export_depend>
  <build_export_depend>std_msgs</build_export_depend>
  <build_export_depend>tf</build_export_depend>
  <exec_depend>geometry_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>python-angles</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>rospy</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>snakesim</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>std_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>tf</exec_depend>


  <!-- The export tag contains other, unspecified, tags -->
  <export>
    <!-- Other tools can request additional information be placed here -->

  </export>
</package>

We’re going to go ahead and remove a lot of the stuff that we don’t need:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<package format="2">
  <name>snake_controller</name>
  <version>0.0.0</version>
  <description>The snake_controller package</description>

  <!-- One maintainer tag required, multiple allowed, one person per tag -->
  <!-- Example:  -->
  <!-- <maintainer email="jane.doe@example.com">Jane Doe</maintainer> -->
  <maintainer email="jamesb@todo.todo">jamesb</maintainer>


  <!-- One license tag required, multiple allowed, one license per tag -->
  <!-- Commonly used license strings: -->
  <!--   BSD, MIT, Boost Software License, GPLv2, GPLv3, LGPLv2.1, LGPLv3 -->
  <license>TODO</license>

  <!-- Author tags are optional, multiple are allowed, one per tag -->
  <!-- Authors do not have to be maintainers, but could be -->
  <!-- Example: -->
  <!-- <author email="jane.doe@example.com">Jane Doe</author> -->
  
  <buildtool_depend>catkin</buildtool_depend>
  <exec_depend>geometry_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>python-angles</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>rospy</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>snakesim</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>std_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>tf</exec_depend>
</package>

Go ahead and make a few changes to personalize it:

  • add a version number if you want
  • add yourself as the maintainer
  • add a license if you want
  • add yourself as an author

You should end up with something like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<package format="2">
  <name>snake_controller</name>
  <version>1.0.0</version>
  <description>A basic controller for the snakesim package</description>

  <maintainer email="pete@purdue.edu">Purdue Pete</maintainer>
  <license>BSD 3 Clause</license>
  <author email="pete@purdue.edu">Purdue Pete</author>
  
  <buildtool_depend>catkin</buildtool_depend>
  <exec_depend>geometry_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>python-angles</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>rospy</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>snakesim</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>std_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>tf</exec_depend>
</package>

Modifying CMakeLists.txt

The CMakeLists.txt is similar to package.xml in that it contains a lot of templated information for you to go in and edit. For a C++ package, it is very important, rather complicated, and will be used to build the code. For a purely Python package, it is actually really simple. It is only needed to make your code compatible with the catkin build system.

If you open the existing one, you should see something like this:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.0.2)
project(snake_controller)

## Compile as C++11, supported in ROS Kinetic and newer
# add_compile_options(-std=c++11)

## Find catkin macros and libraries
## if COMPONENTS list like find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS xyz)
## is used, also find other catkin packages
find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS
  geometry_msgs
  python-angles
  rospy
  snakesim
  std_msgs
  tf
)

## System dependencies are found with CMake's conventions
# find_package(Boost REQUIRED COMPONENTS system)


## Uncomment this if the package has a setup.py. This macro ensures
## modules and global scripts declared therein get installed
## See http://ros.org/doc/api/catkin/html/user_guide/setup_dot_py.html
# catkin_python_setup()

################################################
## Declare ROS messages, services and actions ##
################################################

## To declare and build messages, services or actions from within this
## package, follow these steps:
## * Let MSG_DEP_SET be the set of packages whose message types you use in
##   your messages/services/actions (e.g. std_msgs, actionlib_msgs, ...).
## * In the file package.xml:
##   * add a build_depend tag for "message_generation"
##   * add a build_depend and a exec_depend tag for each package in MSG_DEP_SET
##   * If MSG_DEP_SET isn't empty the following dependency has been pulled in
##     but can be declared for certainty nonetheless:
##     * add a exec_depend tag for "message_runtime"
## * In this file (CMakeLists.txt):
##   * add "message_generation" and every package in MSG_DEP_SET to
##     find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS ...)
##   * add "message_runtime" and every package in MSG_DEP_SET to
##     catkin_package(CATKIN_DEPENDS ...)
##   * uncomment the add_*_files sections below as needed
##     and list every .msg/.srv/.action file to be processed
##   * uncomment the generate_messages entry below
##   * add every package in MSG_DEP_SET to generate_messages(DEPENDENCIES ...)

## Generate messages in the 'msg' folder
# add_message_files(
#   FILES
#   Message1.msg
#   Message2.msg
# )

## Generate services in the 'srv' folder
# add_service_files(
#   FILES
#   Service1.srv
#   Service2.srv
# )

## Generate actions in the 'action' folder
# add_action_files(
#   FILES
#   Action1.action
#   Action2.action
# )

## Generate added messages and services with any dependencies listed here
# generate_messages(
#   DEPENDENCIES
#   geometry_msgs#   std_msgs
# )

################################################
## Declare ROS dynamic reconfigure parameters ##
################################################

## To declare and build dynamic reconfigure parameters within this
## package, follow these steps:
## * In the file package.xml:
##   * add a build_depend and a exec_depend tag for "dynamic_reconfigure"
## * In this file (CMakeLists.txt):
##   * add "dynamic_reconfigure" to
##     find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS ...)
##   * uncomment the "generate_dynamic_reconfigure_options" section below
##     and list every .cfg file to be processed

## Generate dynamic reconfigure parameters in the 'cfg' folder
# generate_dynamic_reconfigure_options(
#   cfg/DynReconf1.cfg
#   cfg/DynReconf2.cfg
# )

###################################
## catkin specific configuration ##
###################################
## The catkin_package macro generates cmake config files for your package
## Declare things to be passed to dependent projects
## INCLUDE_DIRS: uncomment this if your package contains header files
## LIBRARIES: libraries you create in this project that dependent projects also need
## CATKIN_DEPENDS: catkin_packages dependent projects also need
## DEPENDS: system dependencies of this project that dependent projects also need
catkin_package(
#  INCLUDE_DIRS include
#  LIBRARIES snake_controller
#  CATKIN_DEPENDS geometry_msgs python-angles rospy snakesim std_msgs tf
#  DEPENDS system_lib
)

###########
## Build ##
###########

## Specify additional locations of header files
## Your package locations should be listed before other locations
include_directories(
# include
  ${catkin_INCLUDE_DIRS}
)

## Declare a C++ library
# add_library(${PROJECT_NAME}
#   src/${PROJECT_NAME}/snake_controller.cpp
# )

## Add cmake target dependencies of the library
## as an example, code may need to be generated before libraries
## either from message generation or dynamic reconfigure
# add_dependencies(${PROJECT_NAME} ${${PROJECT_NAME}_EXPORTED_TARGETS} ${catkin_EXPORTED_TARGETS})

## Declare a C++ executable
## With catkin_make all packages are built within a single CMake context
## The recommended prefix ensures that target names across packages don't collide
# add_executable(${PROJECT_NAME}_node src/snake_controller_node.cpp)

## Rename C++ executable without prefix
## The above recommended prefix causes long target names, the following renames the
## target back to the shorter version for ease of user use
## e.g. "rosrun someones_pkg node" instead of "rosrun someones_pkg someones_pkg_node"
# set_target_properties(${PROJECT_NAME}_node PROPERTIES OUTPUT_NAME node PREFIX "")

## Add cmake target dependencies of the executable
## same as for the library above
# add_dependencies(${PROJECT_NAME}_node ${${PROJECT_NAME}_EXPORTED_TARGETS} ${catkin_EXPORTED_TARGETS})

## Specify libraries to link a library or executable target against
# target_link_libraries(${PROJECT_NAME}_node
#   ${catkin_LIBRARIES}
# )

#############
## Install ##
#############

# all install targets should use catkin DESTINATION variables
# See http://ros.org/doc/api/catkin/html/adv_user_guide/variables.html

## Mark executable scripts (Python etc.) for installation
## in contrast to setup.py, you can choose the destination
# catkin_install_python(PROGRAMS
#   scripts/my_python_script
#   DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_BIN_DESTINATION}
# )

## Mark executables for installation
## See http://docs.ros.org/melodic/api/catkin/html/howto/format1/building_executables.html
# install(TARGETS ${PROJECT_NAME}_node
#   RUNTIME DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_BIN_DESTINATION}
# )

## Mark libraries for installation
## See http://docs.ros.org/melodic/api/catkin/html/howto/format1/building_libraries.html
# install(TARGETS ${PROJECT_NAME}
#   ARCHIVE DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_LIB_DESTINATION}
#   LIBRARY DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_LIB_DESTINATION}
#   RUNTIME DESTINATION ${CATKIN_GLOBAL_BIN_DESTINATION}
# )

## Mark cpp header files for installation
# install(DIRECTORY include/${PROJECT_NAME}/
#   DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_INCLUDE_DESTINATION}
#   FILES_MATCHING PATTERN "*.h"
#   PATTERN ".svn" EXCLUDE
# )

## Mark other files for installation (e.g. launch and bag files, etc.)
# install(FILES
#   # myfile1
#   # myfile2
#   DESTINATION ${CATKIN_PACKAGE_SHARE_DESTINATION}
# )

#############
## Testing ##
#############

## Add gtest based cpp test target and link libraries
# catkin_add_gtest(${PROJECT_NAME}-test test/test_snake_controller.cpp)
# if(TARGET ${PROJECT_NAME}-test)
#   target_link_libraries(${PROJECT_NAME}-test ${PROJECT_NAME})
# endif()

## Add folders to be run by python nosetests
# catkin_add_nosetests(test)

Once we remove everything we don’t need, it is pretty short:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.0.2)
project(snake_controller)

# Find catkin macros
find_package(catkin REQUIRED)

# generates cmake config files and set variables for installation
catkin_package()

Optionally, you can leave the install and test section in there, but we won’t be using it for this tutorial.

Creating the Package Directory Structure

We’re going to remove the existing src/ directory, which is commonly used for C++ code or Python modules (we are making Python nodes, which are different).

Instead, make the directory structure that we talked about earlier:

snake_controller/
│
└───nodes/
│
└───launch/
│
└───CMakeLists.txt
│
└───package.xml

Sourcing the Workspace Automatically

Remember how we said that you need to source the workspace for every new terminal window that you open? The command looks like this:

source devel/setup.bash

Thankfully, there is a way to make that happen automatically by modifying a script called the bashrc. This is a script that is run every time you open a new terminal. If we put that source command at the end of it, then we don’t need to worry about running it manually for every new terminal we open. You can add that command by running the following in your shell:

echo 'source ~/catkin_ws/devel/setup.bash' >> ~/.bashrc

We can now run that to make it take effect in our current terminal:

source ~/.bashrc

Final Notes

Congratulations, you just finished creating a ROS package! In the following documents, we’ll build three nodes that will allow your new package to control the snake game that you ran earlier.

Heading Controller

Overview

Since our snake recieves linear and angular velocity inputs, making a heading controller seems like a good place to start. This will allow us to control the heading of the snake using feedback control.

Feedback control (also called closed-loop control) means that we are using sensor readings (in this case the output pose of the snake) in order to create our control signal that we send to the snake. As a block diagram, it may look like this:

heading controller

This node is also going to handle the linear velocity command too. We’re just going to keep that at a constant value in order to keep things simple.

Creating the Program

Let’s go ahead and implement this controller in Python now.

We need to start by creating a new file. In the last tutorial, we were left with the proper directory structure to start writing code. We need to make a new file in the nodes directory to house our code. We’ll call this file snake_heading_controller.

Note that it is general practice not to add a .py file extension to nodes. This is because the file name becomes the name of the node when building our package with catkin. Ex: rosrun snake_controller snake_heading_controller is cleaner than rosrun snake_controller snake_heading_controller.py.

Next, we need to make this file an executable:

chmod +x snake_heading_controller

You will need to do this for every node you create.

Let’s start the file by writing a shebang and docstring.

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

A shebang is a one line comment at the start of the file that tells the computer how to run it. We will always use #!/usr/bin/env python for Python files. You can read more about them here

A docstring is a comment in triple double quotes (""") that serves as a comment for that file, class, function, or method. They are part of the PEP 8 style guide for Python, which we’ll be following for our Python code. You can read more about docstrings here, and more about PEP 8 here.

Now, let’s move on and start laying the foundation for our file by writing our __main__ check and creating a class to hold our logic.

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        pass

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

What we’ve done in the first part of this program is create a class called SnakeHeadingController. A class lets you group methods and variables together inside an object. It is a key part of Object Oriented Programming (OOP). It is useful for us, because we’re going to have several variables holding data that we’ll need to access from different methods.

This class has a docstring like before, and it only has one method defined, __init__. This function is called when you create a new instance of that class and is used for initialization. Right now, we’ve put pass inside, which is a Python keyword meaning “do nothing.” It is a handy placeholder because leaving the body of that function blank would result in an error.

In the second part of the program, we’ve told the program what to do if it is executed. The variable __name__ is set to __main__ if this file is the main one being executed. If this file is included in another through import, then the following statements do not get run. We will call this the “__main__ check” moving forward. This is the first part of the program that will be executing commands once ROS starts the node. In this case, it is creating an instance of our SnakeHeadingController class and doing nothing else.

If you’d like, you can run this piece of code from your terminal with the command:

./snake_heading_controller

this command works because of the shebang :)

A keen observer will notice that nothing happened, and our program ended immediately. This is because our code doesn’t do anything yet. We call the second part of our code, which creates an instance of a SnakeHeadingController, which gets initialized through the __init__ method, which does nothing. You can put in print commands in various locations if you are confused about the order in which that all happens:

print "I am here #1"

Creating the Node

Let’s start our ROS specific setup now.

Let’s modify the body of the __init__ function to be the following. This is replacing the pass keyword.

        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        rospy.spin()

Very importantly, we also need to tell Python to import the rospy module, so that we have access to these functions. Add the following just below the docstring:

import rospy

An import command lets you pull in functionality from other Python files. This is super useful to be able to re-use code and write small, modular files. If you look at the source of the snakesim package, you will see it is full of imports.

Here is our current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""
import rospy

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        rospy.spin()

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

Let’s run the program again to see what happens. Note that the commands are a little bit more involved since we need the ROS core to be running.

Terminal 1:

roscore

Terminal 2:

./snake_heading_controller

Compared to the first time we ran this program, it may not seem like much has changed. However, notice that the program will run forever. We need to manually kill it with ctrl+C. This is due to the spin command. Essentially, this command tells the node to wait indefinitely and process message subscriptions. We don’t have any current subscriptions, so the program isn’t doing anything.

We can see the effect of the init_node command by running this in a third terminal:

rosnode list

You will see your node, snake_heading_controller in the list of running nodes!

Feel free to try changing the name of the node or removing the spin command to see what it does.

Creating Subscriptions

In the last section, we learned that spin tells the program to wait indefinitely and process message subscriptions. Let’s create some of those subscriptions now.

Before our spin command, add the following lines:

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

The Subscriber command tells ROS to subscribe to a topic (argument 1), of a specific type (argument 2), and call a function (argument 3) when it recieves a new message. We need to define those callback functions now.

Put these lines after __init__:

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        pass

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        pass

We are defining methods for our SnakeHeadingController and simply using pass so that we can hold off on the implementation for them. If you remember our block diagram from earlier, we are subscribing to the desired heading and true heading respectively.

The callbacks have one argument each (ignoring self), which is the contents of the ROS message recieved. We’ll talk more about how to interpret those shortly.

Lastly, we need to tell Python where to find these message types. Put this right after our existing import command:

from geometry_msgs.msg import PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

Here is our current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        pass

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        pass

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

If we run the file now, we should see the two new callbacks. We’ll use the same first two commands, but we’ll use a slightly different third command in order to inspect the node.

Terminal 1:

roscore

Terminal 2:

./snake_heading_controller

Terminal 3:

rosnode info snake_heading_controller

You will see it is subscribed to snake/pose and controller/heading like we intended!

Creating Publishers

Thinking back to our block diagram, our program needs to output the commanded linear velocity. We will need a publisher in order to do this.

Put this by the subscribers code. It can go before or after, but I like to put them before.

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

This Publisher command is similar to the Subscriber command. It will create a ROS publisher on a given topic (argument 1), of a given type (argument 2), with a specific queue size (argument 3). A queue size of 1 means that the most recent message will always be sent and any older messages waiting to be sent will get dropped. This is good for our application, since we don’t want a delay caused by old messages stuck in a buffer. You can read more about queue sizes on the ROS wiki.

Another difference is that we are keeping a reference to the Publisher object. This is important so that we can publish messages via that reference in the future.

Again, we need to tell Python where to find this new message type. Replace the existing PoseArray import command with the following:

from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray

Here is our current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        pass

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        pass

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

We can test with the same commands as earlier:

Terminal 1:

roscore

Terminal 2:

./snake_heading_controller

Terminal 3:

rosnode info snake_heading_controller

You will see it is now publishing to snake/cmd_vel as we hoped!

Dealing with ROS Message Definitions

Let’s quickly talk about how to pull data out of the ROS messages that our callbacks are recieving. The first thing you’ll want to do is determine the layout of the message you’re receiving. This can be done by browsing the API online or with a terminal command.

Online:

Terminal:

rosmsg info std_msgs/Float64
rosmsg info geometry_msgs/PoseArray

Note that message definitions can be nested. Our PoseArray message holds an array of Pose messages, which is a different message type you can also find on the online API.

Let’s look at the heading callback (heading_cb) first since it has a simpler message. There is only one field, data, which holds a 64 bit floating point number. This is the same as a float type for most Python implementations.

We’ll save that to a local variable and figure out what to do with it later. Replace pass with the following command:

heading_command = heading_msg.data

Let’s look at the pose callback (pose_cb) now. You can see that it contains an array of Poses. From the README.md file included in the snakesim package, we know that this is an array with the pose of each element of the snake starting at the head. We are only interested in the heading of the first segment, which corresponds to the yaw of the pose at index 0.

We know we’ll be looking at something like this:

orientation = pose_msg.poses[0].orientation

To make things a little bit trickier, this orientation is encoded as a quaternion, not an Euler angle. There are many good reasons ROS uses quaternions instead of Euler angles. It avoids singularities, is compact, and there is no ambiguity about what convention is in use. For humans though, Euler angles are normally easier to understand, so we’ll convert to them with the help of a module included with ROS.

First, we’ll import the module. Put this with your other import commands:

from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

You can read the documentation on this function online.

Next, we need to put the quaternion data into a tuple in (x,y,z,w) order, then call the function to get the Euler angles as a tuple in (roll, pitch, yaw) order. Replace pass with the following:

            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)

Here is our current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        orientation = pose_msg.poses[0].orientation

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

        __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

You can run it again if you want, but there shouldn’t be any difference from the last time we ran it.

Implementing the Controller

Now that everything is nicely laid out, let’s get to the actual logic behind the controller.

The first thing we want to do is figure out where the main loop is going to take place. Since the pose callback is going to happen at a reasonably high rate, it seems safe to put our code in there. If we wanted to be more careful, we could look into using a timer or rate object.

In order to keep things simple, we’re going to implement what is called a bang-bang controller. Essentially, it will output a fixed magnitude, positive or negative command depending on the sign of the error. If we are too far left, it will shoot us right. If we are too far right, it will shoot us left. If we wanted to be fancier, we could look at something like a PID controller, but this will be eaiser to implement and work just fine for our puproses.

On a basic level, our logic is going to look something like this:

if have_heading_command:
    error = heading - heading_command
    angular_velocity = sign(error) * ANGULAR_VELOCITY_MAG

From this pseudocode, we know a few things:

  • we need a variable to hold the magnitude of the angular velocity output
  • we need to get the heading command data from the other callback
  • we need a good way to subtract angles that can handle +/- pi being the same
  • we need a math library to copy the sign of the error

Let’s handle these in order:

First, we’ll create an ANGULAR_VELOCITY_MAG variable. Put this line in the __init__ method after init_node:

self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY_MAG = 2.0

Next, we’ll make a variable for tracking the heading command. Put this by the previous line:

self.heading_command = None

Update the heading callback to use this variable rather than a local variable:

self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

In order to handle the difference of angles, we’ll use the angles module. Put this line with your imports:

from angles import shortest_angular_distance

In order to handle the sign of the error, we’ll use the math module. Put this line with your imports:

from math import copysign

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s actually write the logic for the loop. Modify the body of the pose callback to be the following:

        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

Here’s the current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
from math import copysign
from angles import shortest_angular_distance

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        self.heading_command = None
        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = 6.28

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

We’ll be able to test this shortly, but it isn’t ready just yet.

Publishing the Ouput

Earlier we made a publisher and we wrote the logic to get the value to publish. One of the last things we need is actually publishing the value.

Like we stated earlier, this node is going to use a constant value for the linear velocity command for the snake. Let’s define that constant now in the __init__ function:

self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = 2.0

Note that we are using all uppercase for our contants. This is just a convention to make it easier for others to understand our code.

Now that we have the value, we can publish our ROS message. We’ll construct a new message of the correct type, populate our values, then publish it. This will take place at the end of the pose callback (pose_cb).

            twist_msg = Twist()
            twist_msg.linear.x = self.LINEAR_VELOCITY
            twist_msg.angular.z = angular_velocity_command
            self.twist_pub.publish(twist_msg)

Here’s the current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
from math import copysign
from angles import shortest_angular_distance

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        self.heading_command = None
        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = 6.28
        self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = 2.0

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

            twist_msg = Twist()
            twist_msg.linear.x = self.LINEAR_VELOCITY
            twist_msg.angular.z = angular_velocity_command
            self.twist_pub.publish(twist_msg)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

We could go ahead and test this right now, but we’re going to do a little bit of finishing touches first.

Using Parameters

Currently, we have two contants in our code, ANGULAR_VELOCITY and LINEAR_VELOCITY. If we want to change them, we would need to edit the Python file for the node. That may be OK if we never expect these values to change, but ROS actually has a method for handling parameters that let’s you set them the moment you launch a node. This can be useful if the parameters might need to be different under different use cases, or it is a value you want the end user to tune.

Replace our existing definitions of these variables with the below:

        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~angular_velocity', 6.28)
        self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~linear_velocity', 2.0)

Now, we are using rospy in order to get these parameters from a parameter server. We’ll talk about how to set those through ROS in just a minute. The name of the parameter is the first argument, and the default value is the second.

Note the leading tilda, which makes these local parameters. In general, you will always want to use local parameters. Also note that this needs to take place after the call to init_node.

Here’s the current file for reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
from math import copysign
from angles import shortest_angular_distance

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        self.heading_command = None
        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~angular_velocity', 6.28)
        self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~linear_velocity', 2.0)

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

            twist_msg = Twist()
            twist_msg.linear.x = self.LINEAR_VELOCITY
            twist_msg.angular.z = angular_velocity_command
            self.twist_pub.publish(twist_msg)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

Again, we could go ahead and test this script right now. However, we’re going to set something up to make that an easier process in the next step.

Creating a Launch File

Launching this program is somewhat involved. You need to start the ROS core in one terminal window, then you need to launch this node in another. Can you imagine how many terminal windows you would need for a large project? Thankfully, ROS has a system to let you launch multiple nodes at once. It even let’s you do some fancy scripting to set parameters, launch nodes based off conditionals, and nest files through include tags.

We need to create a new file inside the launch directory that we created earlier. Let’s name it snake_controller.launch.

Open this file up, and paste this in:

<launch>
  <node type="snake_heading_controller" pkg="snake_controller" name="snake_heading_controller"/>
</launch>

This is an XML description (similar to HTML) of the ROS network we’re going to launch. You can see we put in the type of the node (the filename for Python nodes), the package, and a name. The name can be anything we want, but it made sense to repeat the name of the node type.

As we get more nodes, we’ll put them in here too so that we can launch them all at once.

Let’s test our code now. Since we’ve added new nodes since the last time we’ve built our package, we need to re-build our project. Run the following command from anywhere inside your catkin_ws directory.

catkin build

We also need to source the project. This let’s the shell know what ROS programs are available to call. If you’ve added it to your bashrc (if you’ve followed the guide, you’ve done this) you can run the below command from anywhere:

source ~/.bashrc

You only need to do that in any terminal windows that are currently open. Any new ones will have that done automatically. You could also close and re-open them all instead of running that command if you really wanted …

If you haven’t added it to your bashrc, or just want to know how to source a workspace manually, this is the command (from the catkin_ws directory):

source devel/setup.bash

Now, let’s launch the code:

roslaunch snake_controller snake_controller.launch

This isn’t super exciting because it isn’t recieving any input and isn’t connected to the snake game. We’ll fix that shortly.

Extending the Launch File

You could launch the snake game in another shell with this command:

roslaunch snakesim snakesim.launch

Or you could launch both of them at once by creating a launch file that includes both of them. Make a new launch file in the same directory as the last one called snake.launch. This will be our primary launch file to get the whole thing running.

Put the following lines in:

<launch>
  <include file="$(find snakesim)/launch/snakesim.launch"/>
  <include file="$(find snake_controller)/launch/snake_controller.launch"/>
</launch>

This file will call the snakesim.launch from that package, then call the snake_controller.launch file that we just wrote. We can run it with the below command:

roslaunch snake_controller snake.launch

You can also check that all the connections between the nodes are working by visualizing it with rqt_graph. In a new terminal (with display capabilities), run the following command.

rosrun rqt_graph rqt_graph

You should see a cool little diagram showing how your nodes are connected by various topics.

Giving the Heading Controller Input

Right now, it still isn’t super exciting to run our node. The heading controller isn’t recieving any input so it isn’t telling the snake to do anything. There are a few ways we can fix this.

Let’s look at a way to do it through the terminal, then we’ll look at a way to do it through a GUI.

You can manually publish ROS messages from the terminal using the rostopic pub command. To give the snake a heading, you can run the following:

rostopic pub /controller/heading std_msgs/Float64 "data: 0.0"

You can see we need to specify the topic, the type, and the data. This will tab complete, so that is cool. You can manually give the snake a few headings this way and make sure the controller works. 0 corresponds to the right and it increases counter-clockwise, measured in radians.

If you want a GUI to send messages, we can use a program called rqt_publisher.

Launch it with the following command on a terminal with display capabilites:

rosrun rqt_publisher rqt_publisher

You need to use a drop down to select the topic, then hit the plus to add it. Then you need to hit a drop down arrow to be able to access the data field. Once you have all that, hit the checkbox to start publishing. The controller should behave the same way regardless of where the data is coming from.

Further Launch File Notes

This is a quick note about how to work with arguments and parameters. This is super useful for creating a robust system of modular launch files. We won’t go super in depth, and it isn’t needed for the tutorial. However, you might find it useful to know.

Remember how we made our two constants ROS parameters? Let’s say that we really want to be able to make our snake’s linear velocity an argument that we can control by specifying a value when we run roslaunch. We want to be able to do this:

roslaunch snake_controller snake.launch linear_velocity:=5.0

The cool thing is that we can, and it isn’t super difficult. First we need to modify the snake_controller.launch:

<launch>
  <arg name="linear_velocity" default="2.0"/>
  <node type="snake_heading_controller" pkg="snake_controller" name="snake_heading_controller">
    <param name="linear_velocity" value="$(arg linear_velocity)"/>
  </node>
</launch>

Here, we’ve specified that we’re expecting an argument called linear_velocity. If we don’t have anything explicitly set, we’ll use a default value of 2.0. When we start the snake_heading_controller node, we’ll pass the value of our argument to the node as a parameter.

Remember the distinction that arguments are for launch files, parameters are for nodes.

If we try the above command, nothing different will happen? Why? Because we are calling snake.launch, not snake_controller.launch. We need to set up a basic pass through. Let’s modify snake.launch to do that now:

<launch>
  <arg name="linear_velocity" default="2.0"/>

  <include file="$(find snakesim)/launch/snakesim.launch"/>

  <include file="$(find snake_controller)/launch/snake_controller.launch">
    <arg name="linear_velocity" value="$(arg linear_velocity)"/>
  </include>
</launch>

Now our above command will work :)

Note that you can have different default values at all the different levels. If you want, make them all different and experiment with the speed of the snake when you remove some of the new stuff that we just added.

If you’re curious about what other shenanigans you can achieve with launch files, the ROS wiki has a full guide to the syntax.

Final Notes

Congratulations, you made it to the end! You just made your first ROS node to build a controller for the snake. This node is relatively simple, but hopefully you learned a lot about using ROS that will help you in creating the next two nodes. Those next two tutorials are much faster since we got all the basic groundwork taken care of in this one.

Below you’ll see the final file we developed, plus a breakdown of it in case if you forget what a specific section is doing. Feel free to experiment with making changes to this node, or move on to the next one.

Full File for Reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
from math import copysign
from angles import shortest_angular_distance

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        self.heading_command = None
        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~angular_velocity', 6.28)
        self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~linear_velocity', 2.0)

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

            twist_msg = Twist()
            twist_msg.linear.x = self.LINEAR_VELOCITY
            twist_msg.angular.z = angular_velocity_command
            self.twist_pub.publish(twist_msg)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

Full File Broken Down:

#!/usr/bin/env python

This is our shebang. It tells the command line how to execute our program.

"""Node to control the heading of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

This is the docstring for the file. It gives a quick description and may also include a license.

# Python
from math import copysign
from angles import shortest_angular_distance

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import Twist, PoseArray
from std_msgs.msg import Float64
from tf.transformations import euler_from_quaternion

These are our import statements. They let us pull functionality from other Python files. We’ve split them into two groups for visual purposes / convention.

class SnakeHeadingController(object):
    """Simple heading controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_heading_controller')

        self.heading_command = None
        self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~angular_velocity', 6.28)
        self.LINEAR_VELOCITY = rospy.get_param('~linear_velocity', 2.0)

        # Publishers
        self.twist_pub = rospy.Publisher('snake/cmd_vel', Twist, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.pose_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/heading', Float64, self.heading_cb)

        rospy.spin()

This is the class definition for SnakeHeadingController and the init method. The init method is run when a new SnakeHeadingController is made. It initializes the node through ROS and gives it a name. The heading_command variable is initialized as None so that we can distinguish between a lack of a command and a command of 0. Two constants are created from ROS parameters, which can be set in launch files or on the commandline.

The publishers and subscribers are created by specifying the topic and type. The publisher also specifies a queue size and the subscribers specify a callback, which is a function that gets called when a new message is received. A reference to the publisher is retained so that we can publish to it in the future.

Lastly, we call spin. This command will block forever until the node is shutdown. While it is blocking, the node responds to input by running the callback methods for each new message it recieves.

    def heading_cb(self, heading_msg):
        """Callback for heading goal."""
        self.heading_command = heading_msg.data

This is our callback for heading commands. It has a short docstring, and we simply save the data from the message so that we can retrieve it later.

    def pose_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if (self.heading_command is not None):
            quat = (pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.x,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.y,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.z,
                    pose_msg.poses[0].orientation.w)

            __, __, heading = euler_from_quaternion(quat)
            error = shortest_angular_distance(heading, self.heading_command)
            angular_velocity_command = copysign(self.ANGULAR_VELOCITY, error)

            twist_msg = Twist()
            twist_msg.linear.x = self.LINEAR_VELOCITY
            twist_msg.angular.z = angular_velocity_command
            self.twist_pub.publish(twist_msg)

This is the callback for pose messages from the snake. We’ve given it a nice docstring and have a little check before running the main logic for the controller. The orientation quaternion is converted into a yaw angle, we calculate the error, then determine our control output. The control output is wrapped up into a ROS message then published.

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakeHeadingController()

This is the section of our code that gets called first when we start the program. We simply make a SnakeheadingController object, then let the __init__ method take over.

Position Controller

Overview

Our snake is now controlled by heading. Why don’t we try to extend it another layer and control with with position? That seems useful if we want to tell it to chase the goal or give it a series of waypoints.

We’ll create a closed loop controller like last time. Our inputs will be the current position of the snake’s head and the commanded position. Our output will be the required heading to reach that positition.

Creating the Program

This will be just like the last program. Let’s call it snake_position_controller and put it in the nodes folder like last time. Make sure to make it executable!

Again, we’ll start the program by writing a shebang and docstring. The basic groundwork for the file will be really similar to last time too. See if you can write out the __main__ check, declare a class, and prototype all the methods our class will need by writing a docstring then using pass.

You should have gotten something like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the position of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

class SnakePositionController(object):
    """Simple position controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        pass

    def position_cb(self, msg):
        """Callback for position."""
        pass

    def snake_cb(self, msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        pass

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakePositionController()

ROS Setup

This section will also be very similar to last time. We’re going to initilize the node, create our subscribers, and create our publishers. Take a look on the ROS wiki, at both the std_msgs and geometry_msgs packages and see if you can pick out a good message type for the subscribers and publishers. Remember that the message types need to match if we’re recieving data from or sending data to nodes that have already been written.

Once you’ve got a handle on that, go ahead and write the __init__ method. You can also update the argument names in the callbacks to be more explicit. Don’t forget any imports too!

You should have gotten something like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the position of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PoseArray, Point
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

class SnakePositionController(object):
    """Simple position controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_position_controller')

        # Publishers
        self.heading_pub = rospy.Publisher('controller/heading', Float64, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.snake_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/position', Point, self.position_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def position_cb(self, point_msg):
        """Callback for position."""
        pass

    def snake_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        pass

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakePositionController()

You can see the Point message was selected for the controller/position topic. Other notable options were Pose, Pose2D, and time-stamped variants of those messages (PointStamped and PoseStamped, there is no Pose2DStamped). Since our goal is just a position and doesn’t need any orientation data, we won’t use a Pose type. Additionally, Pose2D is depreciated and shouldn’t be used anyways. We could have time-stamped the message, but a timestamp isn’t needed. We’ll always just chase the latest position command.

There are many other messages worth looking at on the ROS wiki if you have a specific need in the future.

Implementing the Controller

This controller can be implemented much like the last one. Create a variable to track the desired position, then modify the positon callback in order to set it.

Try two write out the logic in the snake callback. You’ll need a quick check, then somehow you’ll need to calculate the heading command. This can simply be the heading from the point you are currently at, to the point you want to be at. Once you have that, publish it as a ROS message. Don’t forget any imports!

If you need a hint, the atan2 function will help you out.

You should have come up with something like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the position of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
import math

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PoseArray, Point
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

class SnakePositionController(object):
    """Simple position controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_position_controller')

        self.position = None

        # Publishers
        self.heading_pub = rospy.Publisher('controller/heading', Float64, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.snake_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/position', Point, self.position_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def position_cb(self, point_msg):
        """Callback for position."""
        self.position = (point_msg.x, point_msg.y)

    def snake_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if self.position is not None:
            pose = (pose_msg.poses[0].position.x, pose_msg.poses[0].position.y)

            # make a local copy to avoid threading issues
            position = self.position
            heading = math.atan2(position[1] - pose[1], position[0] - pose[0])
            self.heading_pub.publish(heading)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakePositionController()

Something you’ll notice is how a local copy of position is made. Look at these two lines:

            # make a local copy to avoid threading issues
            position = self.position

In rospy, the callbacks all happen in different threads. A thread is a separate, simultaneously running, task. In Python, they aren’t actually simultaneous, but instead the computer will jump back and forth between different threads at a high rate. A bytecode command, which is the smallest chunk that Python commands can be split into can get interleaved between the two threads from it jumping back and forth.

Essentially, you’re not guaranteed that a callback will run all the way through before a different callback will get started. If we were to remove the two lines that were referenced earlier, it is possible that the call to atan2 will be started and the program will run a few bytecode commands in order to calculate the value of the first argument. Then, the execution could go to a different thread, where the first callback is being run. This could changes the self.position tuple to a completely different number while the earlier thread calculating the atan2 is ‘paused’. Execution jumps back to the earlier thread and keeps working on the atan2 call. The second argument is now calculated with the new point. When atan2 is actually called, it would receive the Y value from the first point, and the X value from the second. It would then be calculating the heading to a location that isn’t either of the two points we wanted it to go to!

For this specific case, it wouldn’t be a critical issue since it can’t lead to a program crash (as far as I know …). The pose callback would also be running at a much higher rate than the position callback gets new data, so any weirdness would be quickly fixed in the next iteration.

Regardless of how big an issue it could potentially be, it is still good to write threadsafe code. This is discussed further in 06_next-steps, along with how making a local copy can resolves that issue. Making a local copy will not always resolve the issue, but it does for this specific case. It also discusses another technique to write threadsafe code using Locks.

Updating Launch Files and Testing

Updating the launch file is relatively simple. Put this line in snake_controller.launch right below the other node:

<node type="snake_position_controller" pkg="snake_tutorial" name="snake_position_controller"/>

Running the code follows the same procedure as before. Make sure to catkin build and source!

For testing, you can use either rostopic pub or rqt_publisher. See if you can figure out the command for rostopic pub. Tab completion will be your friend :)

Final Notes

Congratulations, you just finished your second node and are almost done! This tutorial was much more hands off, so hopefully you were able to apply a lot of the knowledge you gained while writing the first node in order to write this one.

Below, you’ll see the final file we developed. Feel free to experiment with making changes to this node, or move on to the next one.

Full File for Reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to control the position of the snake.

License removed for brevity
"""

# Python
import math

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PoseArray, Point
from std_msgs.msg import Float64

class SnakePositionController(object):
    """Simple position controller for the snake."""
    def __init__(self):
        rospy.init_node('snake_position_controller')

        self.position = None

        # Publishers
        self.heading_pub = rospy.Publisher('controller/heading', Float64, queue_size=1)

        # Subscribers
        rospy.Subscriber('snake/pose', PoseArray, self.snake_cb)
        rospy.Subscriber('controller/position', Point, self.position_cb)

        rospy.spin()

    def position_cb(self, point_msg):
        """Callback for position."""
        self.position = (point_msg.x, point_msg.y)

    def snake_cb(self, pose_msg):
        """Callback for poses from the snake."""
        if self.position is not None:
            pose = (pose_msg.poses[0].position.x, pose_msg.poses[0].position.y)

            # make a local copy to avoid threading issues
            position = self.position
            heading = math.atan2(position[1] - pose[1], position[0] - pose[0])
            self.heading_pub.publish(heading)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    SnakePositionController()

Goal Relay

Overview

Our snake is now controlled by position. If we want to keep things really simple, the snake can just chase the goal with no regard for walls or its own body. You’ll find it is pretty effective at the start of the game, but the approach has some very clear flaws once the snake builds up any decent length.

This simple relay is what we’ll develop now. In the future, you can expand on this controller by fixing these problems. We’ll give you a few more notes on that in the next document.

Creating the Program

This is going to start like the last program in creating the file and making it executable, then adding the shebang and docstring. However, things are going to be different once we start writing code. Go ahead and do all the above, and write pass after the __main__ check.

You should have something like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to relay goal position to the position controller.

License removed for brevity
"""

if __name__ == "__main__":
    pass

We could create a class like we’ve done in the past. However, this node is going to be really simple. We don’t have any persistent data to keep track of like commanded headings or positions. We’ll also only have a single subscriber, where we can put all of the logic. The logic won’t even be anything spectacular. It will simply be publishing the data from a PointStamped message as a Point type. For something really small like this, it can be appropriate to skip over creating a class, and put everything after the __main__ check.

Look at the below program to see for yourself:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to relay goal position to the position controller.

License removed for brevity
"""

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PointStamped, Point

if __name__ == "__main__":
    rospy.init_node('snake_goal_relay')

    # Publishers
    goal_pub = rospy.Publisher('controller/position', Point, queue_size=1)

    # Subscribers
    rospy.Subscriber(
        'snake/goal',
        PointStamped,
        lambda msg, pub=goal_pub: pub.publish(msg.point)
    )

    rospy.spin()

We’ve used something called a lambda in order to put the logic right into the call to create a subscriber. Rather than include the name of a function, we used the lambda keyword, which lets us put the arguments separated by commas, then the logic after a semicolon. Note that you can also pass in extra arguments and even assign them using an equal sign in the argument list.

You can learn more about lambdas online.

Updating Launch Files and Testing

Updating the launch file is no different from the position controller. Give it a shot and see if the snake runs. Remember to catkin build and source!

You should have gotten something like this:

<node type="snake_goal_relay" pkg="snake_tutorial" name="snake_goal_controller"/>

You will find you no longer need to manually plug in data in order to test. Instead the snake controller is done, and will run automatically. Use rqt_plot to see how all the nodes work together!

Final Notes

Congratulations, you just finished writing a basic controller for the snake! Hopefully you learned a great deal about how ROS works, and how to write nodes in Python. You should be confident to experiment with your own ideas in to improve upon (or completely rewrite!) the controller we’ve just finished making.

Below, you’ll see the final file we developed. Feel free to experiment with making changes to this node, any of the previous ones, or start making your own. There is some information to help you in the next document.

Full File for Reference:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Node to relay goal position to the position controller.

License removed for brevity
"""

# ROS
import rospy
from geometry_msgs.msg import PointStamped, Point

if __name__ == "__main__":
    rospy.init_node('snake_goal_relay')

    # Publishers
    goal_pub = rospy.Publisher('controller/position', Point, queue_size=1)

    # Subscribers
    rospy.Subscriber(
        'snake/goal',
        PointStamped,
        lambda msg, pub=goal_pub: pub.publish(msg.point)
    )

    rospy.spin()

Next Steps

Overview

You did it. You finished the guided tutorials. You likely learned a lot about ROS and Python along the way. Hopefully you take some pride in your accomplishment because learning to use ROS is no easy feat.

In this document, we’ll present some ideas on how you could improve upon this controller in order to expand on your ROS knowledge. We’ll also give you some tips and insight into additional topics you may encounter while working on your improvements.

Ideas for Improvement

Feel free to use some of these ideas in the list, or go off and do your own thing. This is designed to be open ended. You can build on the existing controller or tear it down completely to make your own system.

Self Avoidance System

The snake dies when it intersects with itself. You could create a new node to sit between the goal relay and the position controller that will re-route the snake if it is detecting a collision.

You could also remove the goal relay completely and design your own waypoint controller that uses an graph based planning algorithm. For example, grassfire, Dijkstra, or A* (pronouced “A star”) algorithms could all work.

If you want to get really fancy, you could consider the fact that the snake is going to move as you execute the motion plan, so it may be acceptible to intersect with the current position by some amount. Cutting corners like this may save you valuable time if you’re trying to maximize the score in a fixed time frame.

Wall Avoidance System

Another way that the snake dies is by intersecting with the wall. Commonly, this is an issue when the snake approaches a goal near the wall in a way that doesn’t leave room for the snake to get out.

Like the above suggestion, you could create a new node between the goal relay and position controller that re-routes the snake to a safe path. You could also remove it completely and build it right into a fancier waypoint controller.

This could be built in addition to the self avoidance system using some sort of planning algorithm that looks past reaching the next goal. For example Rapidly Exploring Random Trees (RRT) could be used to find a safe path to the goal and an arbitray secondary location nearby.

Machine Learning

If you have experience with machine learning, you can probably apply it to this problem. If you want GPU acceleration, take a look at modifying the Docker scripts to use the NVIDIA Container Toolkit. You may also run into issues with Python versions. There is a way to run ROS with Python 3, but it requires a little bit of extra work. You can also develop a multicontainer application and use Docker’s networking tools to bridge between this container and another running your machine learning stack. These are all more advanced topics so we won’t discuss how to do that in this document.

Tips and Insights for Making New Nodes

Portability

Beginners sometimes like to put all the logic for a system in one big node. This is like if we put the heading, position, and goal relay nodes all in one place. Technically, it will work fine with ROS if you have all your inputs and ouputs set up correctly. However, it may not be the best way to do things.

A really big benefit of ROS is how modular a system of nodes can be. Let’s say that you want to experiment with using a more intelligent waypoint controller rather than just feeding in the goal position. You can write a new node for that purpose and create a different launch file to use it. You could even make the launch file pick the correct node programatically using commandline arguments!

It can also be advantagous to split things up for debugging purposes. If we put all the logic for the controller in once node, then started having issues with the heading control to the system, we’d need to go in and put print statements or use a debugger in order to check the output. With the way we wrote it with ROS, we can use commandline tools like rostopic echo in order to validate the output. We could also isolate the one node we want to verify and perform unit testing using rostopic pub.

Lastly, using ROS messages defines a command standard for nodes to communicate. If you put everything in one big node, you probably will use internal Python data structures to send information back and forth. This may make things more difficult to maintain later on if you don’t define these interfaces very clearly.

As a general rule of thumb, split up logic into multiple nodes if:

  • there are multiple logical steps that may be re-used or replaced in the future
  • you want to be able to debug data sent between two logical steps using ROS
  • The data sent between multiple logical steps has a complex format that a ROS message exists for

Naming Conventions

Here is the general rule of thumb for naming ROS specific items:

  • packages: snake_case
  • nodes: snake_case
  • topics: snake_case/with/optional/nesting
  • parameters: snake_case/with/optional/nesting

For Python, follow the PEP 8 guidelines:

  • classes: PascalCase
  • variables: snake_case
  • “private” variables: _snake_case_with_leading_underscore
  • “constant” variables: CAPITALIZED_WITH_UNDERSCORES
  • functions: snake_case
  • “private” functions: _snake_case_with_leading_underscore

Picking Message Types

Generally, you want to use a ROS message type that is intended for the application you have in mind. For example, the Vector3 message and the Point message both have three fields, x, y, and z. However, Vector3 is designed to represent vectors in 3D space, while Point is designed to represent points in 3D space.

Another bad thing is to use a message and use the fields for different purposes than intended. For example, ROS has a Quaternion message, but no standard EulerAngle message. If you took a Quaternion message and made the x,y, and z field correspond to roll, pitch, and yaw, that would be really confusing for future users. It is also generally advisable to use quaternions over Euler angles since there is no confusion about how to interpret them.

ROS has some standard message types that you can look at online:

If you feel really adventurous, you can define your own messages, but that is outside the scope of this document.

Threading Notes

Earlier, we discussed that for rospy, all of the subscriptions happen in their own threads. This can be an issue if you have code like the following:

def callback_one(self, msg):
    self.important_variable = msg.data

def callback_two(self, msg):
    # Check that we can take the log of important_variable
    if self.important_variable > 0:
        self.some_variable = msg.data * math.log(self.important_variable)

What could happen is that callback_two gets called and performs the check. Then callback_one gets called and sets important_variable to a negative number. Then, the execution goes back to callback_two and we crash the program since math.log throws an error if you try to take the natural logarithm of a negative number.

You could also have issues with something like iterating through an array if the array is being changed in a different callback.

There are a few ways to get around this:

  • use locks
  • use atomic operations

Locks

Locks (similar to mutex’s in other langues) let you enforce rules about how threads can access shared data. Let’s see what the earlier example looks like when lock are being used:

import threading
# ...
self.lock = threading.Lock()
# ...

def callback_one(self, msg):
    self.lock.acquire()
    self.important_variable = msg.data
    self.lock.release()

def callback_two(self, msg):
    self.lock.acquire()
    # Check that we can take the log of important_variable
    if self.important_variable > 0:
        self.some_variable = msg.data * math.log(self.important_variable)
    self.lock.release()

This works because one callback can’t acquire the lock until the other has released it. It is a blocking call by default. Locks are provided through the threading library, and you can read more about them online.

Atomic Operations

This is a more advanced concept, but it can make things a little bit simpler if you understand it well.

In CPython atleast, there is something called the Global Interpreter Lock or GIL. This essentially makes a restriction that multithreaded programs can really only run in a single thread. Instead it switches back and forth between running bytecode commands from the different “threads”. The benefit is that if you know a certain command is atomic (meaning it is one bytecode instruction), you don’t need to worry about breaking things as much.

This is why it was safe in the snake_position_controller node to make a local copy. Making a local copy of a tuple is atomic. Tuples are immutable, meaning that when it is updated in another thread, a new one is made, the variable is changed to point to the new one, and the old one is thrown out if nothing else is still using it. For our case, we were still using it with our local variable, so it was kept safe for us. Lists are a good example of a datatype that is not immutable. If our X and Y values had been stored in a list, we would not have been thread safe.

A full list of atomic operations are proved online.

Debugging

There are going to be many times where ROS wants to make you slam your head into a wall. Luckily there are tools to reduce that frustration and help spot issues.

This is a short list of the many options avaliable:

  • rqt_graph: This ROS package allows users to visualize the ROS computation graph. In other words, you can see what nodes are active as well as how nodes are communicating. Here is an example of a graph: rqt graph example

  • roswtf: This ROS package is an automated debugging tool that finds issues by searching your workspace and graph. It can find things like improperly set up packages and nodes with unconnected topics. Additionally it has a fun name.

  • rostopic: This command-line tool can be used in debugging nodes by the messages sent on connected topics. The main commands you might find most useful are list, echo and pub. list will list all active topics on the ROS graph. echo will let you monitor a topic live on the commandline. pub will let you send messages via the command line. This tool is espcially helpful for testing or when running nodes independently.

  • rosnode: This is another useful command-line tool for debugging nodes. You can use list to see all active nodes, then info to print out various information about a given node.

  • Python Specific Debugger (PDB): This is a tool built to help debug python applications. It has nothing to do with ROS. It has a bit of a learning curve, but it was used heavily in making the snakesim package. It may be worth using if you think you have issues inside of a node that you can’t debug by looking at ROS messages going in and out. It will allow you to step through your code using breakpoints, and monitor the value of variables as you do so.

Additional Resources and Getting Help

If you’re part of the Autonomous Robotics Club of Purdue, you can post questions to other members on Slack. This is a really good way to get quick feedback.

If you’re looking for other resources online, there are a few official ones:

And of course, there are always other forum sites like StackOverflow. You can also find resources on YouTube that may help with the explanation of general concepts.

If you’re looking for a textbook like experience, there is an excellent free book called A Gentle Introduction to ROS.

Give Us Feedback

Feel free to give us feedback on this tutorial. If you are part of the Autonomous Robotics Club of Purdue, let us know about any potential improvements or errors you found through Slack. If you have an interest in creating your own tutorial to add to this package, lets us know.

If you’re outside of the club and found this useful, please let us know. You can give the repo some stars on GitHub. You can also create GitHub Issues for any problems you found, or open up a PR if you have a fix. If you want to get in contact with the maintainer, send us an email through autonomy@purdue.edu.