Competitions are fun ways for kids and adults alike to learn and make friends very quickly. Robotics competitions aren’t different. Robot competitions bring together people in different age groups – researchers, students, and enthusiasts working in unique and perhaps more challenging areas in robotics, opening up rare and tremendous opportunities to meet and learn from each other.
In this article, we are going to discuss the Botball Educational Robotics program that includes how to get started and some tips and tricks to win the competition.
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2. Robotics Explorer (Age 11+)
3. Robotics Champion (Age 14+)
The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school-aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition and serves as a perfect way to meet today’s new common core standards.
By exposing students to an inquiry-based, learn-by-doing activity that appeals to their hearts as well as their minds, Botball® addresses our nation’s need for a well-prepared, creative, yet disciplined workforce with leadership and teamwork experience.
Students use science, engineering, technology, math, and writing skills to design, build, program, and document robots in a hands-on project that reinforces their learning.
No Remote Controlled robots - There is no driver! The robot’s actions are based on information from the sensors, combined with the computer program written by the students in advance. Botball robots are completely autonomous and rely on this computer programming to start, stop, and manoeuvre on the game board. Each robot uses sensors to detect changes in light, distance, colour, and parameters.
Engineering with minimum tools - The kit includes an iRobot Create robot base (similar to the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner), LEGO pieces, compatible metal parts, motors, servos, a multitude of sensors, a camera for use with the built-in computer vision system, and all the tools required so that students can complete the mechanical construction of their robots without the need for power tools or a machine shop. This helps level the playing field amongst competitors with different access to these resources.
Teams receive their reusable robotics kit at the workshop along with software and documentation. They also receive detailed information regarding the current year’s game. Participants will actually use their robotics kit to build and program a demonstration robot at the workshop. Following the workshop, students are given 7-9 weeks to:
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Reusable components - In a recent survey, 86% of Botball team leaders reported using these components for educational activities outside of Botball throughout the academic year.
Uses for a Botball kit outside the Botball season:
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Each robotics competition is centred around a specific challenge or set of challenges. These might include stacking items onto racks, launching balls into goals or over barriers, or climbing over obstacles. Each year, organizers come up with new challenges. It’s imperative to know what will be on the table. In most cases, the information is announced in advance, but some organizers still love to add a “secret” extra challenge the teams do not know about.
Be Prepared to React to New Challenges
There is no such thing as a perfectly competition-ready robot. Every robotics team needs to be prepared to make field repairs and tweaks to ensure that they get the best performance possible out of their robots.
In addition to this, teams should always count on event organizers to throw them a curveball. These are last-minute challenges that are designed to force teams to work on the fly. If you have trained your robot to do just one thing properly, it may not win in the long shot.
Get Your Team Looking Like a Team
This may seem frivolous, but it really is important. The best robotics teams are truly cohesive units, and that is how they present themselves to others. Work together to select a team name, uniform, and team colours.
In a strange way, robotics can be a bit like professional wrestling. Teams, even robots develop personas. This is all in fun, but it does a lot to keep the crowd excited and to get teams appropriately worked up and ready for competition.
Attend Camps, Join Clubs And Get Involved in Other Events
While there is an overall environment of friendliness, this is a competitive and intense field. Competing in some of the great robotics competitions around can lead to trophies, scholarship money, and notoriety.
Rather than jumping right into the competitive side of robotics right away, some people learn the lay of the land by joining robotics clubs as non competing members, viewing competitions as spectators, or attending a computer tech camp to get prepared. These are great places to learn and build skills before you enter the arena.
One thing that established teams can do is mentor up and coming or younger robotics enthusiasts. This can be an effective way to maintain the competitive advantage a team has developed while still helping others make their own mark in robotics competitions.
Check Out Your Competition
Good robotics teams always have an idea of what their competitors are up to. Some of this information comes by way of doing the research before the big day. In fact, many competition organizers publish a list of teams, team members, and past accomplishments. There is also a lot that can be learned simply by watching other teams compete or their demo videos on YouTube.
Don’t worry. It’s not creepy. Other teams will be checking out your team as well. Remember that the overall atmosphere of the robotics competition is friendly. You are more likely to find people who are eager to share notes than those who eye people with suspicion.
Define Roles And Backup Positions
Just like players on a sports team each play a role, robotics team players have roles to play as well, and each is just as important as the next. Typical roles include:
Marketers - Team members who get the crowd enthused and create an overall team spirit.
Drivers - These are the folks who operate the robots.
The Crew - These are the team members who show up with tools in hand, ready to keep each robot operational.
Recon - These team members check out the competition and report back on any new developments.
The Organizer - This is the team member who knows everything the team must do to meet the challenges of the competition. They ensure that everyone is where they need to be at any given time.
The Spokesperson - This is the person who speaks for the group when they are approached by spectators who are curious about robotics competitions.
There is an amazing number of organizations that are sponsoring and supporting robotics competitions. If you’ve ever thought about participating, find a team and go for it. If you are simply curious about robotics, by all means, go and check out a competition near you.
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