State Of The Robot (Week 3)
Today is January 27 2018, exactly 3 weeks into build season, with exactly 3 weeks left to go in build season. Every day from here on out, we have more “yesterdays” left in build season than “tomorrows”, meaning time spent together as a team is becoming more and more precious by the day. Its on this momentous occasion that team coach Profitt sent two newshounds (aka Ryan A. and myself) on a mission to investigate, the State Of The Robot.
We took the opportunity to not only check in on the robot itself, but to catch up on experiences gained from build season as well. Robotics, is much more than just building a robot and comprises of learning valuable lessons as well. We ended up questioning a total of 7 people, with a representative (or two) from each of the sub-teams on their progress so far. At this point in build season, most of our initial three sub-teams: Mechanical, Programming and Electrical have been divided into further sub-teams to specialize in certain functions and/or mechanisms of the robot.
Our quest began with the mechanical team, now consisting of four separate sub-teams. Our first victim, err, representative was Cole R., part the of the sub-team working on the Robot’s chassis.
As of right now the chassis for our robot, according to Cole, is “pretty much complete!” Ruben, who has been on the Robotics team for 2 years now says “The main focus right now is to focus on the small on the kinks” Cole said, referring to the small details required in ensuring the chassis is at it’s best for competition.
“We are working faster than last year” Cole said. “If we continue the way we have been, we should be in good shape for the competition”. As of this week, The team has finished not only creating Computer Aided Design (CAD) for the chassis but finishing both chassis for the practice robot and the actual robot as well. We asked Cole what has been the most valuable lesson of his time on the team this year to which he replied: “Keeping everyone updated and on the same page.” Referring to do one of the struggles of leadership of keeping people on task. He claims that he’s working to overcome this challenge by trying to get people more involved in the building process.
The second person interviews was Kyle L., a mechanical captain for the mechanical sub-team. I asked Kyle, “How well do you think we’re going to do at competition this year?” After a slight pause to reflect Kyle replied, “Despite all our ups and downs this year, we’re gonna do better than last year for sure”. The reflects the unanimously positive consensus of everyone we interviewed.
Although Kyle has the responsibility of working on integration between all mechanical parts, his main focus right now is on the “Cube Manipulator”. The “Cube Manipulator” is the term coined for the mechanism which picks up and delivers the cube to the switch or the scale. The mechanism is still currently in the prototype phase, with team (as we speak right now) working on finishing the CAD for the final design. “At this point” Kyle says “We are right on target although we would like to be further along.” Kyle is possibly one of, if not the most, dedicated members of our team, known to spend 10 hours working on the robot a day on numerous occasions. Despite this, however, Kyle claims the most challenging part is the “Execution of ideas” referring to the process of turning the vision of what the robot should be into an actual, functioning, physical object. His strategy for coping with this problem being: “simplifying things as much as possible, and do not make them harder than they actually are.”
Subsequently after Kyle’s interview we stumbled upon Zikun Wang, a member of the mechanical team working on the Elevator system for the robot along with the Integration of all mechanical systems with Kyle.
Zikun, unfortunately claims that he’s behind schedule on the mechanism, stating that his sub-team should be working on building a prototype for the mechanism rather than still creating a CAD. The elevator mechanism is in charge of lifting cube to place it on a platform, a method of earning points during this year’s challenge. Zikun would like to give a piece of advice to all members of Robotics teams worldwide: “When you’re designing a robot make sure you consider all available resources before proceeding.” In short, he means that make sure you’re design is physically possible to build before you try to build it. Wang says the hardest part of the season so far has been making sure the Elevator Mechanism is compatible with all other mechanisms on the robot. To his point, the elevator is by far one of the largest mechanisms we have to build and will be right in the center of our robot. Despite his concern for the elevator project, Zikun is still confident we will do “better than last year” at the competition.
The last, but not least , of the projects of the team is working on is the Climber mechanism. Two students brand new members, Daniel Z. and Graham M., are leading this project.
Through their first build season, Graham and Daniel claim to have learned the importance of teamwork and communication in robotics. A fact of which they were unaware of before. From their first three weeks on the team, Graham and Daniel are confident they are making “solid progress”. The team is on pace with where the team should be. Although they have yet to experience a robotics competition, their prediction is that “we’ll not be the worst team by any means, we should do well”. It surprises me that these two have learned the keys (teamwork and communication) to successful robotics team already, and I’m sure they will be fantastic members of the team in years to come.
Finally, we move on from Mechanical to the teams working on the sometimes overlooked but equally important parts of the robot. So we left the workshop and entered the lair of the programmers and electricians
We stumbled upon Holly P. the sub-team leader of the electrical team
Holly, by far was the most optimistic of all that we interviewed. She has kept the electrical team ahead of schedule, finishing the electrical board for the practice robot long before the true robot was built as well as working on parts for the final robot as I interviewed her. Being Holly’s 3rd year on the team, she claims to have learned, for the first time, to “delegate work” to others. Finding the balance of giving work to others as well as doing work herself. Holly, is sure we will get into “at least the semi-finals” during competition. Holly’s positive outlook is contagious and I, too, feel like our robot will much better at the competition after talking to her.
Last but not least of all we interviewed was Ronan K, a programmer that part of leadership team for our team as well
Ronan has spent most of the week working on the functions of the robot during the tele operated part of the game. He has spent time working on LIDAR and NavX as well, sensors used by the robot to detect and measure what is happening in the robot’s surroundings. Overall, Ronan believes Programming is making good progress, but he feels that they are a “tad behind”. He is unsure of how big or small that gap is. Ronan says that this year in particular was the first time he learned to keep people on task, pointing out a time when he was able to keep everyone on task during a 5 hour long meeting. The biggest challenge for Ronan is that most of our programmers this year are new. The programmers are learning about revision control as well as the specifics of programming a robot. Kenkare is confident that going into this competition we have a lot more potential than in years past, believing that if we could tap into even a tiny bit of that potential, we could go further than any team has gone before.
So, overall, I left the interviews surprised. Surprised by optimism as well as the lessons gained by all my team mates. I hope that for the next three weeks, this pattern continues and all of us go into competition, with as positive of an outlook as all of us have right now.
Thank you so much for reading,