Learning from Mistakes
Between rounds, we set the robot on the table and prepared to remove the malfunctioning motor. Sticking the hex wrenches into the various crevices of the robot, we unscrewed the motor from the structure and replaced it with the new one we had just purchased. We finished in the nick of time, with just enough time to test it before our next competition. Our conjecture as to the robot’s problems had been correct, and it was now back in competing form. We moved it to the competition arena, waiting for the referee to give us the signal to start. Lexi drove the robot this time, with Tim and Owen in her proximity. She maneuvered the robot effectively, pushing the balls into the goal zone with ease.
This all took place on January 18, 2014, at Erskine Academy, where my fellow roboticists and I competed with other robotics clubs in the region and managed to turn in our best performance to date. The competition involved lifting balls of different sizes and putting them in elevated goals as well as floor goals. By the end of the qualifying rounds, we learned that we had made it to the quarterfinals, and, for the first time, competed in yet another round of competitions. Our robotics team is quite new, having only competed for two years, but we have made tremendous progress in that short amount of time by working together and with the guidance of our faculty coach, science teacher Neil Rice. We went from totally non-functional robots to functioning, successful, and pride-inducing robots. Coach Rice explains the robotics club this way:
“The robotics activity is entirely student-run. They come up with their own ideas, create their own designs, and build their own robots. Some students prefer building, others prefer programming, but they all contribute to the final product — which is never quite finished. And that is the most exciting part — watching them think and work under pressure to get the robot onto the competition floor after some unexpected mechanical failure or design flaw is revealed.”
Next year, we aspire to build an even better robot, with the hope of possibly placing among the top schools at next year’s meet. We have already taken apart our previous robot and drawn up plans for a new one. We hope to attract even more freshman in the fall so that the team can be self-sustainable after its founding members graduate.