This past Sunday, March 2nd, was the culmination of the robotic’s team’s work. As described in an earlier article (http://blogs.yu.edu/mta/2014/01/31/mta-robotics-team-competes/), the team had originally prepared for a qualifying event in January that was turned into a scrimmage. In the month between that scrimmage round and the new qualifying competition this past Sunday, the team worked hard to enhance the robot’s ability to accomplish all of its tasks.
At the scrimmage, we defied Murphy’s law. Other teams entered the scrimmage with good-looking, well performing robots that could seemingly win every round, while our robot had encountered last minute troubles. Our initial strategy to accomplish the goals of the competition depended on an arm with three joints that could scoop up blocks efficiently, dump blocks in the boxes on pendulums, and hang from a bar in the middle of the field. In order to do that, we put three motors connected with gears at the base of the arm, to give it sufficient power to pull itself up onto the bar. However, the first and second joints weren’t strong enough to lift their parts of the arm, so we had to remove them. This left us with a smaller arm powered by three motors, giving it a tremendous amount of power, but making it difficult to control. Thus, it became essentially useless. At the scrimmage, we were nonetheless able to take our poorly performing robot and outperform other robots, especially because of its ability to raise a flag, another task that was part of the competition. As mentioned in the previous article, by the time the competition was called, we were doing fairly well. But the postponement of the Qualifying Round gave us the opportunity to fix our robot and we used the time wisely.
We met once or twice a week for the duration of the month, for many hours at a time, sometimes going even as late as 11:00 PM or midnight for some members, and all our work was guided by our dedicated coach Reuven Levy. We decided to simplify our robot by making one utility to accomplish each task, rather than over-complicate the controls by attempting to do several things, with one utility. The flag lifter we had last time and the drive train we used were in fully working condition, so we decided to keep them as they were, but we got rid of the disastrous arm. We replaced the arm with a slider that operated on a system of pulleys. We were going to use this to hang from the bar, a feat worth 50 points (which is considered a lot). We also modified the front of the robot so that we could scoop up blocks and push them into the low goal. Our most notable feature, which most of the other robots did not have, was a successful Infra-Red Program. In order to get the most points during the autonomous period (a 30 second period when the robot has to operate on its own based on a pre-written code), a robot has to dump a block into the bucket on top of the Infra-Red beacon, and then drive independently onto a ramp. We excelled in the autonomous period since our the robot was able to detect the beacon, dump the block into the bucket, return to its starting point, and then drive onto the ramp.
After countless meetings, the big day finally arrived, and we were ready. Everything went smoothly in our first match. The robot missed the bucket by a small margin in the autonomous period, but still successfully ended up on the ramp getting us 20 points. In the second and third matches, our robot scored all 60 points. We were also able to successfully raise the flag and score blocks in the low goal. When we attempted to hang from the bar, our robot hung, but then after the match was over, lowered itself automatically, so the points weren’t counted. After our first four preliminary matches, we were in 5th place, and undefeated.
That was great news for our team; it meant we had done very well. However, next up was the elimination matches and only the top 4 teams are secured a spot in the elimination matches, which meant that we just missed the cutoff. The way the elimination matches work is that the top 4 teams are team captains, and they each get to choose two robots to join their alliance. We were hoping that one of the top four teams would choose another of the top four, because that would mean that we would be bumped up into a captain’s position. However, that didn’t happen. Instead we were chosen by the second place team to join their alliance, which meant we still had a chance to move on to the next round.
Our alliance won the first of its three matches, and then lost the next two. We were eliminated in the semi-finals, much to our disappointment. In the end, the 4th place team beat the 3rd place team in the finals. Although we lost, we still have a chance to be invited to the playoff rounds coming up soon.
Our team worked hard, and had the awesome robot to prove it. We are proud of our accomplishments, and look forward to next year’s challenge. We would like to thank Dr. Taylor for being a major supporter of the team, all year round, and also for showing up to all of our events to cheer us on. Most importantly, we wish to thank Reuven Levy, our coach, for taking out so much time from his truly busy schedule to mentor and help us build, program, and debug our Robot.