Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017-07-18: Volunteers Compete for the Best Rover

by Payton Heyman, Ai social media specialist-in-training

Cameron Fazio and Eric Smith prepare their rover, Churromobile, for a test drive.
Whose rover will reign victorious here at the Autonomy Incubator?  Seven high school students, some volunteers and some part of a residential governor's school program, are competing against each other in two opposing groups to answer that question.

The goal of the competition is to successfully build a mobile rover in order to mount a 25-pound robotic arm on the top.  This arm will be capable of moving a 7-8 pound wooden truss; however, the rover must be stable and not tip when the arm extends.

The interior of ChurroMobile prior to adding hinges and a flat base to prop the arm on.
The first step of the project was the design, in which they focused on the creation of multiple 3D digital mock-ups to help decide on a final model.  Different components were then ordered to start their task.  Most were commercial, off-the-shelf parts, but some were ordered from a robotics competition vendor.  The majority of them came in a kit where all of the pieces, screws, and instructions are included, allowing them to easily assemble the rover with only some slight modifications needed for additional equipment.

Then, each team had to wire up all of the electronics on the rover.  Luckily this was quite simple since the controller board that is being used has several components in one.  For example, it connects the speed controllers to the motor, as described by Eric Smith, one of the governor's school students and member of Group One.

Eric Smith started working with robotics in seventh grade and has continued
working with them for nearly five years, as he will soon begin his senior year this fall.
"In our case, the electronic wiring is relatively simple," Eric stated after several
years of experience in clubs at school and competing in robotics competitions.
Once the rover can move smoothly, an arm will be attached to the top in order to extend and grab the trusts created by Xuan Nguyen, a volunteer and competitor in Group Two.

The quarter-scale trusses are fairly basic structures made of wooden sticks, plastic cardboard, and hot glue.  It is half a meter tall with a triangular base.

Xuan built the trusts out of light material with assistance from one of the other volunteers, Ian Fenn.
Group One has nicknamed their rover ChurroMobile with an arm by the name of Gal-GaBot. ChurroMobile was moving quite successfully by the third week and will have the arm attached very soon.

Featured below is Cameron Fazio, another governor's school student.  In this video he is proving the strength and mobility of their rover by grabbing onto it and having it pull him in a rolling chair throughout the halls of the Autonomy Incubator.

Group Two is also making great progress in the competition.  Their rover goes by the name of Ironbot with an arm named RobotDowneyJr.

According to Group Two member Billy Smith, the easiest part of the process for him thus far was "understanding the project itself and what to do, but ordering the parts and using older technology came as a slight difficulty, but we have managed to do just fine."

Billy Smith, governor's school student, working on part of the base for Group Two's rover.
Ian Fenn attaching the wheels to the flat base of the rover.
The end of the competition is just around the corner and the champion group will be announced soon after evaluation.  Both groups have been working very hard in hopes of winning and eagerly award the upcoming Rover-Off. So, stay tuned!

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