Read how Teams 3711, 957 & 847 are using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) as they build this year’s robots:
Three weeks into the build season, progress is slow and like something out of a nerdy reality show we are scrambling to put things together and make things work. Every good idea seems to be thwarted by some rule in tiny print that we had passed over before, or other unforeseen problems. Another is the fact that our coach is not with us due to a recent health issue and our list of available materials grows thin. But we won’t run and hide, for we have STEM on our side In terms of math, we are having to calculate wheel diameter and motor RPM to figure out the distance needed to climb up the pole. We also have calculated power output from a motor to see if that will meet the power demand for the work that has to be done to move the robot up the pole for climbing. Engineering is getting a work out, having to figure out center of gravity on the robot and friction forces. I have been in the program for two years now, and if I had read this article when I started, I would have had no clue what anything meant. I am not seen as a technology person, but now even I have a basic knowledge of machines and their parts, and many others on the team are discovering the same thing. Robotics helps broaden your horizon, and gives students a chance to see that technology and engineering is not as daunting as was previously thought. Those who have participated in robotics now see the world through STEM glasses, and it affects everything else they do: school, sports, careers and lifestyle. FIRST robotics is more than a game; it is a catalyst for the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and it will change our future for the better.
Personally I’ve never been one for math…or science…or engineering…or technology; at least not separately. But together they make the most wonderful and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Robotics has really helped me realize that STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) is a big part of creation, and creativity. There’s just something about watching people who are passionate about what they do, do their work. It tends to rub off on to you.
As for the bot, our troubles mostly lie in not being able to perfect a design for climbing the pyramids. Several great ideas have been brought to the table, yet for some reason or another they’ve been discarded. Whether it is for the time limit, bad prototyping, or the team just doesn’t agree. But slowly we are starting to piece together a winning robot.
Though- however guiltily- I must say I’m having fun using (and learning) physics to disprove ideas, or come up with new ones. Such as when we were designing the Frisbee shooter, I learned so much about how air resistance works. I really hope I continue to discover as much as I have so far, throughout the whole build season.
Building a climbing robot this year, our team has faced a number of design challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge we’ve dealt with is determining how to position our robot’s center of mass to reduce swinging action when hanging near the top of the pyramid. Even in our early wooden prototypes we could see that, if left unchecked, the swinging on the bars could increase our climb times and make the driver’s job much more difficult. Using physics knowledge that we gained in high school classes, we determined that the best place for our center of mass was directly below and centered exactly between the hooks that we hang from.
We were able to quickly test this hypothesis on our wooden prototype by adding mass in the appropriate locations. Our mechanical teams are currently working on final robot designs using CAD (computer aided design) software provided by Autodesk. This software has proved invaluable for ensuring that our center of mass will be in the correct location on our final robot before we actually build it. By testing designs in a virtual environment first, we can easily fix problems that would become much more difficult to solve once fully implemented. Although we still have a few kinks to work out, we are confident that our careful design process will lead us to a successful, reliable, and robust robot for the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition.