This year we had the pleasure of hosting three FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics teams from the studio. The theme this year was Hydro-dynamics or human water management. If you haven't seen FLL before, the teams must design and build a robot that can complete missions on the robot table. These missions might be tasks like connecting pipes, picking up and dropping off items into certain places on the table, all within a set 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The teams have to come up with the strategy of how they want to move the robot around and what attachments the robot needs to get the job done.
At the beginning of the season we sat down with all of the teams and discussed the learnings from last year. The key takeaways were:
* Attachments that used pins cost too much time and were a problem on game day.
* We need a robot that can use more on field markers to help with alignment.
* Finding the right program on the robot after each mission took a long time on game day.
With this in mind the teams looked at a number of Youtube videos of previous years robots and discussed what a robot might look like that could use 'pinless' attachments. The consensus from the teams was that a simple box design would be the easiest way to support these type of attachments. The other advantage rising from a box design is that it could be used to align to walls. Each of the teams designed and built a basic box based robot and a number of 'sleeves' that could fit over the top. The actual attachments were then built onto the sleeve itself.
This design actually worked incredibly well, the swap over was quick and easy. The only issues that we found was that the sleeves didn't give the same amount of motor torque as we would get if we drove directly off a motor.
Two of the teams undertook the challenge of writing what we called a 'master program', this program essentially connected all of the missions together so that a single button press would set the robot off onto the next mission. This again worked great, the only issue was that it still needed to be reset when the robot needed picking up.
Each team picked a great research topic this year and all of the teams scored very well in the project phase of the competition. It was great to see them work on this with some serious effort over the competition period.
As our teams now know, game day is when it all needs to come together, even a small human mistake can cause a disastrous robot run. We are proud to say that all of our teams finished in the top 8 (out of 40-ish teams), the Botbuilders came first on the day. Even with a few issues on the day, both their 1st and 2nd scores were ahead of the 2nd placed team.
The high score of the day meant they got to take home a nice piece of plastic.
A big huge congratulations to all of our teams, we are very proud of your efforts this year. Until next year ...