Week 5 (Feb. 4-10)
During the penultimate week of build season, Gunn Robotics Team (GRT) was nearing the finish line of their two-month-long challenge. The team finished all mechanisms, installed them on the frames of their robots and gave them to the Controls team to assemble the robots.
The Controls team programmed the robot to follow specific instructions from the Drive team. “We worked on vision tracking to find the portions of the back boards, as well as mechanism code,” junior and Controls team member Andrew Gerber-Duffy said.
According to senior GRT Team Leader Gregg Ratanaphanyarat, certain parts of the team’s challenge robot gave the team difficulties. “We had challenges with mechanical integration and design flaws since our robot did change slightly from our rought draft Beta bot,” Ratanaphanyarat wrote in an email.
At times, the robots also did not function well even though all individual parts worked separately. “The process of troubleshooting is very stressful because it’s all of your final work breaking and having to fix them again,” senior Jaxon Welsh said. Fortunately, the team managed to deal with all of the issues and finally saw the robot come together towards the end.
Meeting all the deadlines for the Omega 1 robot was another challenge since time was ticking away. Rantanaphanyarat worried that progress might be slowing down as the team members were relatively tired at this point. “Time crunches, falling behind, panics and arguments always happen when people work closely with one another for six weeks, but I never lost faith for a second that things wouldn’t get done,” senior Rachel Talis of the Ball Collection team said.
According to GRT Supervisor Bill Dunbar, the GRT members did really well during the week, and was able to assemble the robots in Week 5 and bring them to life. “I am very proud of my students’ teamwork and their problem-solving abilities,” Dunbar said.
After five weeks of hard work, Week 6 was the last week before the competition robot would be shipped off for their first competition on in Baltimore, Maryland. “The last week of build was rather stressful; it always is,” senior Mechanism Leader Alex Sutherland wrote in an email. “However, it is also a time that brings confidence as you see your team really come together and finish what you started.”
The final additions to the robot are left to the Controls group, which is in charge of wiring and programming the robot. “This is something we always worry about at this stage,” Sutherland wrote. “Our controls group always gets the robot after everyone else, so it really comes down to them in the last few days.” Dunbar expressed similar sentiments. “Wiring is always time consuming,” he said. “One bad electrical connection and the system doesn’t work. Then the students have to go back and try to find the problem.”
As a whole, Sutherland felt that the bottom roller group had the most trouble with their task this season. “The team had a big challenge because they took on both getting balls off the ground and into the robot as well as funneling balls outside of our bumpers to our picking up,” he wrote. “They did a really good job at taking on these tough challenges and came out with a very good final mechanism.”
In the end, both Dunbar and Sutherland felt good about the 2012 build season. “We were able to build one Beta Bot and two Omega Bots this year and that is something to really be proud of,” Sutherland wrote. Dunbar also added that stress and time pressure were handled well. “Despite the tendency to get angry when something goes wrong, the students stayed calm and professional,” he said.
GRT will attend the National Championship Robotics Competition in St. Louis this year. “There are 800 teams and we always get beat up,” Dunbar said. “But it’s also really fun.”
After six weeks of late nights, hard work and the utmost dedication, GRT finished build season with results to brag about. Post-build, Ratanaphanyarat was more than satisfied with their work. “We met our goals of building two final robots, which we have never done before successfully,” Ratanaphanyarat said. “GRT was able to create three completely functional robots in six weeks time which is really an amazing feat.” Dunbar felt similarly. “This year’s robot is one of the best we have ever built,” he said.
Overall, build season was marked by professional construction and careful planning. “This year’s build season was characterized by masterful machining and welding,” Dunbar said. “The craftsmanship is truly remarkable.”
Ratanaphanyarat also feels that communication was key for this year’s build-season success. “Communication was an important part to this year’s management plan and was executed well,” Ratanaphanyarat said. “Team members got along and helped each other manage and figure challenges out. Communication between our management structures got together often to figure out the challenges ahead and lay out plans for our next steps.”
Despite a successful build season, Ratanaphanyarat adds that there is always room for improvement. “I’m sure we would have done extra things for the robot, such as making it lighter,” Ratanaphanyarat said. “But the question wasn’t really there knowing we have a second identical robot still here at home that we can work on and improve on, which we are still doing.” When asked about what GRT would have done if it had extra time, Dunbar comically said, “I would have asked my students to get more sleep.”
As far as competition goes, GRT will be competing against last year’s international champions, the Bellarmine Cheesy Poofs. Ratanaphanyarat is excited to face a strong rival team.
Photos courtesy of Peter Froud