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Getting the HANG of Things

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Newbie

Getting the HANG of Things

If you've ever seen me attempt to throw (or flail) a Frisbee into a goal during an ultimate Frisbee match, you probably were a little bit worried about a robot doing that same task for the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition challenge, Ultimate Ascent. Good thing we have engineering on our side!

Excuse me, I have yet to introduce myself! I'm Eunice Kokor and I am Team 1671, the Buchanan Bird Brain's current CEO and past CAD lead. So, I'm pretty familiar with PTC, Creo (and its old days as Pro-Engineer!), Windchill (file management for the win), and I've given a good attempt at MathCAD. I actually make my AP Physics formula sheets digitally using MathCAD. It's a lot better than the scribbled mess of equations that everyone else uses. That's one of the perks of being on a robotics team, I guess! Back to the point. Our previous CEO, Evan Giarta, blogged about his experiences throughout the build season. And I thought that was cool and it gave everyone else a interesting perspective of how we're actually doing. So, why not?

So, back to the game challenge: Imagine. My. Horror. Last year, we worked with foam basketballs, which were fairly easy to manipulate and pick up. The year before that, we had inflatable tubes. Our team thought up a claw to pick up and score those game pieces. The year before that was soccer and you pretty much had to (accurately) kick balls into goals. However, a Frisbee intuitively isn't easy to work with. Frisbees can be upside down or right side up and that orientation directs the motion of the object. Whether or not you add spin to the Frisbee directs its path. Plus, have you ever played with a Frisbee in the wind? Yeah. Almost impossible. Picking a Frisbee up was also another concern. Saving the day, while our team was tearing apart the rules in small groups (we have like 65 members this year!), our main technical mentor, Joshua Houser, went out to buy a standard Frisbee as well as this cool Nerf mini frisbee shooter. That thing was pretty accurate. Spring loaded with a "flicking" mechanism to add spin, it could hit a point across the room!

Everyone seemed to have a nice intuitive sense of how these Frisbees were going to act. We started to figure out what our objectives were going to be as we hashed through different game plans and strategies. Some groups focused on scoring while others focused on penalties and robot designs. The climbing portion seemed to stump a lot of kids, though. How can you get a 120 pound robot to suspend itself 90 inches off the ground? I didn't have any ideas myself. Plus, a lot of us were getting too ahead of ourselves in the design process and had made decisions without the rest of the group, which is never good. So, a group of us assembled in front of a white board with three columns. 1. What we WILL do for sure with 100% surety 2. What would be NICE to do with 75% sureness and 3. What would be PHENOMENAL to achieve? We made sure everything in Category One was achievable, prototypal, and worth our time, agreeing with a group consensus after checking the manual, field drawings, and logic. The other categories are improvements to our basic functionality that will occur with time, more prototyping, and clarifications with the rules. We ended the day with some CAD things accomplished, and prototypes hashed out. Tomorrow, we'll be attending a strategy meeting with our friends in the Valley, the Duncan Dynamics, team 3970. Hopefully, we'll learn a lot and strategize a lot as well.

People say that every year, our team improves. I really liked how we came together today and worked collaboratively to constructively look at our ideas to synergize a cohesive concept and game strategy. In my opinion, that's a HUGE accomplishment, especially with so many people from many different experience levels and robotics backgrounds. As a senior in high school, I've obviously been looking college majors and have even participated in a college experience program called MITES at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the summer. Currently, I've been undecided over Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in something of the social sciences. However, after speaking with professors and students from all walks in their careers, I have noticed a huge emphasis on collaborative working from multiple disciplines. As we as an academic community are learning more and more about certain issues that are of importance in our world, we understand the increasing levels of complexity that they entail. Us as engineers and scientists have to accommodate for that complexity somehow. We can't just approach any problem from one or two angles anymore. We need to understand the social implications of a problem and its solution. We have to see the environmental impacts. And that kind of thinking requires input from everyone. Working together is key. So, I hope to emulate that on my team. I think it has become one of my biggest goals as CEO. So, any ideas are welcome!

Now I have to get back to studying for finals and looking at more robotics things. I just saw an email about Robotalk webinars and I think those will help us a lot. Wish us luck throughout the season!

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