For the past several months Monarch High School has been working on their entry for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Darby is finishing her freshman year of high school and is on the team that designed and built the robot for the Monarch Shazbots (their team name).
Darby Wearing Nerdy Goggles in the Robot Paddock
This weekend was the Regional Competition at the Denver University's Richie Center. I went down to see a couple heats on Saturday morning and the place was hopping.
Panorama photo of the Paddock and Competition Floor
The event floor was cut into two pieces the first was the robot paddock where the teams could make final tweaks (and more than a few repairs) on their robots when they were not running. The other side was the competition side where teams of robots would compete for points in a variety of ways while traversing an oval track.
The course is a 54'x27' track divided by a fence into a Red side and Blue side. The fence is crossed by an overpass marking the red and blue finish lines. Two three-team alliances race around the track in a counter clockwise direction manipulating "track balls". The track balls are large balls that sit above the track level on a grid at the start of the challenge.
The game is made up of two scoring periods. The first 15 seconds of play is the hybrid period in which robots are autonomous. During the Hybrid period, robots traveling in a counterclockwise direction score 8 points for knocking down a ball or tossing a ball over the overpass, 4 points whenever their robot crosses a line on the track and 2 points whenever their trackball crosses their finish line.
The next two minutes of play the robots are controlled via remote control by the team members. In this phase the team scores 2 points each time their robot crosses their finish line and 8 points whenever their trackball passes over their overpass. In addition a 12 point bonus is possible if the robot can place the ball on their overpass at the end of the session.
Monarch Robot Running the Course
The Monarch robot like most of the others was amazing to watch. In the video segment above you can see the robot during the remote controlled part of the run navigating the track and using its sliding arm to push track balls off the overpass. Some of the other robots at the competition could reach up and grab track balls and as well as place them back on the overpass. Ultimately, the robot that won the entire competition could pick up a ball off the ground then launch it 20 feet clearing the overpass entirely.
These things were really complex. I don't have super detailed information on them but everyone uses the same micro-controller and some basic parts. But after that the design is totally their own and many design types were evident. Some robots used a crab drive type mechanism; others had multiple sets of fixed wheels with differential drive wheels. Some robots used pokers to move the balls, some had fully articulating arms. It was amazing to watch. Makes me really want to build a robot :-)
In the end, the Monarch team finished 20th out of 42 teams and didn't advance to the finals on Saturday afternoon (just barely). The winner ended up being a group from Winnebago Indiana, Winnevation. They had the robot that could throw the ball 20 feet. They clearly won (I can't throw that ball 20 feet).
I'm happy Lura and I donated some money in the name of Lijit. All the major sponsors were commemorated on the back of the student Tee-Shirts.
As you can see Lijit is having our usual naming difficulties. I know it's hard for students to spell words wrong (they need to spend more time out in the dot.com world). I really want to thank Amy Batchelor for contributing to the team as well. She seems to hanging out these days with some new dude named Brad Field, I bet he doesn't have a bathroom named after him, like Brad Feld does.
I was also surprised to see that Raindance Communications was one of a handful of Event Sponsors. It's nice to know that they are giving something back to community in spite of ownership being somewhere else now.
I think Monarch was proudly represented and I think im going to try to get more involved next year. It's just too fun not to be!