State Of The Robot (Week 5)
Running on Empty
Running for me, in particular, is an extremely rare occurrence. As a former football lineman, my focus was mainly on building strength, and although I could easily do a back squat of 375 pounds, I realized I could run for only about 10 minutes until I was exhausted. I decided to make the change to shift my focus for once in my training career and work on my stamina instead. I kept my word and earlier this week, and went to the YMCA to, for the first time in a few years, run on the treadmill. I entered the gym, greeted by the whirring of the machines and the clanging of the weights. For the first time ever, Instead of heading towards the weight room at the back, I turned and walked down the aisle of treadmills. I saw all the other runners, all in seemingly fantastic shape, making me feel even more daunted by the task that lay ahead. The sweat pouring down their faces. Their arms moving rhythmically with each step. Their mouths open, with air being replaced newer, fresher air every second. I kept walking until I saw the one furthest away from all the other runners.
I was sure that as a first time runner, this would be nothing else but embarrassing for me. I cautiously stepped on the treadmill and pressed “Quick Start”, a timer appeared in the upper right corner, 1:00:00, 59:59, 59:58… I began to move my feet, one step after another. 57:30. 2 and a half minutes in, everything was going just as I’d expected- I wasn’t out of breath yet and was beginning to catch a rhythm. 55:00. 5 minutes in, everything still going well, my initial intimidation of the task began to fade. 50:00. 10 minutes in, almost as if on queue with what I expected, a heaviness came into my body making each step feel like a bag of lead was attached to my feet. “No” I said to myself, I wasn’t going to quit then, I wasn’t going to only meet my expectations when I could exceed them. I lowered the speed, but I kept going. 47:00. 13 minutes in, something I never thought would happen, happened. I could only keep my rhythm from the last few minutes going as I felt this sudden burst of energy resonate out in all directions from my core, removing the heaviness in all parts of my body. Detaching the bags of lead on my feet and removing all my fatigue. I suddenly realized what I was experiencing was what was called “The Runner’s high”. I turned up the speed to even faster than it was when I started, this new burst of energy leading the way. The minutes all seemed to merge together as I became like the Runners I initially saw, sweat pouring down my face, my feet moving in a rhythm, my mouth open with air being replaced every second. 30:00, 3 times the amount I expected into my run, I pressed “Pause” on the treadmill, slowly bringing my feet to a standstill as I realized what I had just done.
From my experience with talking to others on the team this week, I can say what the team accomplished can also be defined as a “Runner’s high”. From the spot last week where everyone expected the worst, instead came the best this week.
To obtain an even more holistic image of the State Of The Robot this week, I interviewed members of the team that had the highest attendance rate this week. I hoped these dedicated members would offer a more comprehensive view of our robot.
Programmer Kyle N, was the first person I interviewed this week. Kyle is a freshman and first year member of our team.
Kyle’s main focus this season has been to learn the programming language with all its ins and outs. This being the end of the 5th week, Kyle through his dedication and hard work, has actually gained enough knowledge of the language in programming to contribute a significant portion to the programming code for the robot. Kyle worked on the coding for the Elevator mechanism this week. The elevator mechanism, as a reminder, is the part of the robot that lifts the “power cube” onto a platform in order to gain more points. Alongside this, Kyle worked on the coding for the controllers to be able to control the robot. Kyle claims the hardest part of this week in particular was knowing where to begin in the coding process which he claims he was able to overcome this week with the support and encouragement of his teammates. In fact, Kyle says that he’s learned the most frequent way the team overcomes obstacles during the build season is through that same method- counting on each other as a team. Not trying to take advantage of each other and get ahead, but instead helping everyone else get to the point you’re at if you’re ahead. The Programming team, according to Kyle is right on schedule with where they’d like to be. They’re working on finishing the autonomous coding as well as other sensors for the robot. For my own curiosity’s sake, I asked him what he found the most exciting about being on the robotics team, Kyle’s rather humorous answer was, “When I’m doing programming, I feel like a Wizard”.
Next up was David S., a Senior and second year member of the Electrical team.
The electrical team’s focus for last week and most of this week, according to David, will be constructing the final electrical boards for the robot (and practice robot). Like so, David’s main focus this week was to work on constructing the boards. From what I’ve noticed from writing these weekly reports, the electrical team has consistently been ahead of schedule. This week however, that came to an end when a shipment of new parts put the electrical team back to “right on schedule”. David says the final board is far more complex than the practice electrical boards they worked on earlier in the season, The final ones include far more wires and connections. The hardest part of this upcoming week, in David’s opinion will be the integration of all parts of the robot, specifically the electrical board with the final robot. With this daunting challenge in the next week I asked David how he expects the team to overcome this challenge. To my surprise, David said a response uncannily, if not exactly the same, as Kyle said in my first interview. Working together as a team and using each other using others as, he dubbed, a “resource database”. When asked what he finds the most exciting about robotics, David says “the idea of starting from [nothing but] an idea and turning it into reality.
My third interview to figure out the “State Of The Robot” was Aaron M. a senior and 4 year member of the robotics team. Although he began the season as Finance Manager (though he much rather prefers to be called “Finance Minister”), in charge of obtaining sponsorships and funds, his role has now shifted back to what he began at the start of his robotics career- physically building the robot.
Aaron says his most challenging part of the week came when he cut pieces to the wrong dimensions. Unknown to him at the time, the member of the team who’d made the plans had actually had the wrong dimensions for the parts. Only after he had finished cutting and tried integrating the parts with the robot did he realize the error he had made. Aaron had to fix this issue by revisiting the plans having to figure out what the correct dimensions were. This meant Aaron had to cut the majority of the pieces he’d made. To add to Aaron’s luck this week, he claims to have been cutting material when all of a sudden he accidentally broke a miter saw blade. In some way he did not disclose to me, he somehow chipped a tooth of the blade, rendering the blade, useless. Despite Aaron’s personal bad luck though, the mechanical team had made far more progress in this week than in most weeks past. The team decided to abandon the S-beam design which was causing so much distress for the team last week (during week 4). In terms of the actual construction of the robot, the chassis is still the only thing fully completed at this point, but the rest of the robot is coming along fairly well at a quick pace. Unsurprisingly, Aaron says the main challenge of this week will be to pick up and finish the robot by the end of the week. Aaron expects we can overcome this challenge by doing the same thing Kyle and David said- working together as a team and counting on each other. Like David and Kyle, I also asked Aaron what he found the most exciting about robotics, in a fitting response to the Mechanical team’s situation, Aaron said: “The way always manage to figure it out”
At this point in the season the Mechanical team has narrowed down into two distinct groups: Those assembling the robot and those CADing the robot. Aaron was on the team assembling the robot, My next interview was with Marcus B, A first year freshman, working on CAD
Compared to last week, The confidence levels in the mechanical team, especially the CAD team seems exponentially higher than last week. Whereas last week nearly all mechanical people I spoke with In fact by the end of today (February 10th) the CAD team expects to be done with everything but the “Deployment bars”. The Deployment bars are a design that allow other robots to climb along with our robot instead of by themselves. Marcus says the biggest challenge he faced this week was updating the design of the robot, to make it, simpler. The biggest challenge Marcus anticipates for the next week is also the same one he expects for this upcoming week: Integration of all parts of the robot. According to him, even the updating of the design was caused by a conflict they found between the Climber and Cube manipulator on the robot. He expects this to be a common theme throughout next week, and highly anticipates a conflict between the mechanisms of the robot and the electrical board. Marcus, unlike the other three I interviewed, said the most common way our team overcomes challenges is through changing our perspectives to consider others point of view. When I asked Marcus what excites him the most about robotics, he had, what I thought, was an incredibly unique answer. According to Marcus, Robotics makes him feel as if he’s working in his father’s footsteps. He explained to me how his father primarily does CAD in his career and went on describe all the great projects his father has worked on throughout his career.
Also this week, on a note unrelated to robot progress, our team has decided on the members on Drive team for the Finger Lakes Regional 2018- Ash, Sierra, Kyle, Nayal and Shaq. These players went through a series of tests and came out on top.
Don’t Bring Me Down
All this brings me back to where I started- The “Runner’s high”. Last week the team was in a spot where many would’ve said, we’re not gonna make it by the end of the build season. But then, out of nowhere it hit and all of a sudden, the team is back on track. Now, every single team is saying they are right where they wanna be, even Mechanical. Mechanical had originally expected to be done with building both robots (competition and practice) by the end of the 4th week, However a setback from the S-beam design and other difficulties caused that to not happen. The mechanical team went back at it and readjusted their schedule to fit alongside the amount of time we have left. This brings us going into the last week of build season, literally and figuratively, at full speed.
Thank you so much for reading, stay tuned for more,