What I'm Seeing Now


Robotics 101

Since October my daughter has been doing an after-school activity - Robotics.  Teams from all of the middle schools in the area take the same materials and construct a robot.  My daughter's school, the local charter school called the Pennington School, had two teams.  My daughter competed with both. 

At the competition there were three arenas, Galileo, Einstein and Newton.  Her teams competed in the Newton arena.

The idea is to pick up the plastic donuts with the robot and place them over the stake and stack them onto the white holders.  The robots need to avoid the obstacle in the middle and the other robots as it goes about its work.

Each robot begins on its own pad.

There are four robots in each competition.

The key is that each robot is manipulated by three different operators.

One of the four of the team acts as a spotter, telling the team the best places to go.

It requires that they work as a team!  To do so, a team must work together.  I noticed that all the teams had a hard time working together.  During the time frame leading up to the competition there were three snow days preventing the teams from actual time with the robots!  That can be a big deal when it comes time to understand how your robot reacts with the donuts and you react with your team.  One person operates the forward/backward, one the side-to-side and one the lift arm.  So it is crucial that you act as one.

There were many competitions scheduled for each team during the day.  At the first competition a certain home inspector (let's call him HI) who was watching noticed that the robot lacked ballast and tipped to the front.

It could not hold itself level much less the weight of a donut.  Without practice time the team did not know this.  (They're in 8th grade and aren't engineers...)

That HI fanagled a "Pit Pass."  It is very rare to obtain one, but the HI is good at that sort of thing.

One rule - a "visitor" to the pit (where work is done on the robots between competitions) cannot touch a robot or the team is eliminated from competition.  So the HI could only talk and said to the team that the robot needed ballast.  He judged the looks on their faces and rephrased it - "The robot needs more weight on the back."

With ballast added the robot was able to roll and lift.  After a couple more tweaks and changes the robot worked pretty well!

This is the robot in the next competition, just before dropping a donut onto the stake.  This changed things!

The HI Pit Crew Helper had to leave to do a couple of home inspections, it being Saturday after all! 

But the team of budding scientists and engineers from Pennington had a lot of fun during the rest of the competition. 

Were there any lessons learned?  Sure! 

Just because you think something works doesn't mean that it works.

And physics has laws that must be obeyed.  If not, weight and energy does not work together and what is supposed to roll, turn, lift and drop might not exactly do all that!

And to work as a team, you must practice as a team!

But friendships were made, and a great experience was had by each one!  They didn't end up first or last, but had a great day!  And I was very proud to see some of it happen!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 20 commentsJay Markanich • February 27 2011 06:07AM
Robotics 101
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