Robotics: Let The Games Begin

A lot has changed at high-school science fairs.

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Right before the year-end holidays I posted a blog about a robot competition under Science Fair – Redefined. I am happy to report that the team we’re sponsoring – The Chargers – are putting the finishing touches on their robot entry to the competition. The games will begin soon. I continue to be amazed at the sophistication and complexity of this process, as I only have my high school science fairs to compare it to.

This is not your father’s high school competition. Let’s start with an overview of the games, contributed by Stuart Hunt, the captain of The Chargers:

“In order to be competitive in this year’s competition, we designed our robot to be able to pick up 10-inch foam balls and shoot them into 7-foot-high goals. The robot is also capable of traversing over treacherous terrain. The aforementioned terrain consists of numerous modular game pieces called ‘defenses,’ including a liftable gate that must be passed under, various uneven patches of terrain, seesaw-like ramps, drawbridges, doors and a few others. The entire robot build, including the design phase, is limited to the six-week time period defined by (the rules of the contest).”

Sounds easy, right? (You should be smiling now.) Let’s start with the “playing field” for this competition. Below is a three-minute video that explains the whole thing.


There are all kinds of obstacles on this field that the robots must navigate through. Some are stationary and others change dynamically based on audience feedback. There are more than 10,000 possible field configurations. (If your head isn’t starting to hurt now, it should.) The part, above, about shooting the foam balls seven feet in the air is key to weakening the opposition’s defenses. The tower in the upper right corner of the field is an example of what must be hit. This is kind of like building a robot that can shoot basketball. Can it be done? Below is a much shorter video (under 20 seconds) – you’ve got to watch it.


Impressive.

I can’t wait to get reports from the actual playing field – that will start soon. I’ll be back on a later post to let you know how our team faired. Below is a photo of the finished robot, with badging.

Figure 3