If you give a mouse a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk. If you give a team of geeks a box full of parts ranging from aluminum to plywood to motors to RF interfaces, they will build a robot. Introducing Best Robotics, a volunteer group that gives schools a box of hardware and 6 weeks to build a robot that will compete against other schools for the title of champion.
This past Saturday the17th, the OKBest regional competition was held and I, HaD writer [Jakob], was lucky enough to be invited personally to not only watch – but compete. Check out our full breakdown after the jump.
First an explanation of the competition. Each year the ‘goal’ changes but always includes several of the same concepts. Remote controlled robots must pick up different items for points, assemble something for multipliers, and signal a tie breaker. This year the robot’s task was to scavenge and collect tennis balls, racket balls, soup cans, beach balls, and 6inch PVC pipe sections – easy right?
Well not when those tennis balls are catalysts, racket balls are water, soup cans are energy, beach balls are CO2, and the PVC represents benzene. See where we’re going, if not think chemistry. It gets harder when you learn almost none of those game pieces are in play unless you send an IR signal to the game field. We haven’t even gotten to the 2 foot size restriction in all 3 dimensions and the finite parts list. Those who want to read more about the game and rules this year can find it here.
So how did I get the chance to compete? Well, being team captain really helps. Meet team ENHS. The past two years we’ve come nearly in last place and this this was our third, and potentially final time to partake within Best; it was time to stop being the underdogs.
Our robot design included an undercarriage ‘stomach’ and frontal ‘mouth’ that could be raised and lowered to capture the tennis balls, racket balls, and soup cans. We decided against attaining CO2 and benzene after finding we could achieve a max score of about 21 million points without them. The control system, programming, and IR commands were all handled by yours truly – while the rest of the team did most of the construction – and painting.
The great thing about Best is that if you don’t have an engineering degree, or even know what a motor does. There are awards that can actually get you to first place by best documentation, most enthusiasm, best T-shirt design, most interesting interview, and several others. But it still exposes people to robots and their construction, hopefully to influence them towards a career in technology.
So how did we actually do? 5th place overall out of 12. Not to bad considering last year we got 18th out of 17 teams (we don’t know how we managed that either). Win or lose, the experience, knowledge, and fun we gained from the competition will last a lifetime. The competition however will not, as funding for Best has declined over the years and our region next year will not play host. Hats off to the best year of Best.