Posted by Michael Posner on April 12th, 2014
My blog on prototyping last week was huge and I have been told people are still reading it, as in they started last week and they have yet to make it to the end. This week’s blog should be nice and short and mostly off-topic.
I visited a robotic competition over the weekend using the excuse that it would be educational to see the engineering behind the creation of the robots. Really this was not an excuse, I love robots and wanted to see if I could pick up any tips and tricks from the robots competing which would aid me in my remote controlled vehicles I have been building. The builders of these robots were from Grade 9-12 and the competitions are run by FIRST. The robot challenge this year, and it changes each year, was to shoot a large inflated ball into goals, over bars or pushed into holes.
The atmosphere was great, all the kids want to win but they all cheer on the other teams. The competition groups three teams together on one side competing against another set of three teams, the reds and the blues. Extra points are awarded for robot to robot teamwork in preparation for a scoring shot. A the start of the match the robots run autonomously for the first 10 seconds executing a predefined program that the team has programmed. After the initial 10 seconds the control turns over to manually controlled by joystick or dedicated controller. The action is fast and furious with robots spinning around trying to shoot and defend.
The most amazing thing for me was to see all the designs the robots used to solve the problem of picking up the ball and shooting it. If you think about they were all solving the same problem but they all came up with many different ways to solve it. It was great to see engineers in the making. I commend the sponsors as without their help many of these kids would never be exposed to such electrical, mechanical and computer engineering. While I’m saying it, thank you Raspberry Pi who created a platform putting computer and programing capabilities in reach of everyone. I’m personally looking forward to the next generation of engineers who will have grown up totally immersed in engineering.