1st Tournament of 2020

On Saturday the 19th of September at 0840. 5 nervous students (with their parents) met on the side street in Kensington.  A large futuristic building was towering over them.

As we walked inside Pembroke’s new science building, we were greeted with the best resources that a private school could provide.  A buzz of excitement grew between the parents (who all happened to be engineers) as they checked out all the cool toys.

  • To the right were 4 to 5 large robots.  Some about the same height as our most junior member of the team, or so I recollect. (I may be exaggerating a little).  
  • Lined up on the left were 6-7  very slick, aerodynamic Peddle Prix vehicles. 
  • Placed in the centre of the atrium stood the Vex V5 Field.

Ok enough about the parents’ jealousy of the opportunities that their kids are getting!

This article should be about the kids.

We were escorted to the Vex IQ room that was bright and airy.  The field was raised above the floor with the use of desks.  A significantly different feel to Vex IQ set up on our lounge room floor.

The teams not really knowing how they would compare with the rest of the competition started to prepare for both their autonomous and driver skills runs.  For the past 4 months, the students have been meeting on the weekends, going through the design cycle multiple times to gain benefits from continued improvements.  Today was when they were going to see how they stood in comparison to other teams in the tournament.

Each team got 3 driver skills attempt, and 3 autonomous skills attempt.  Due to COVID restrictions, different groups were given different time slots. The two Building Bots teams shared a time slot with one other school team.  The girls’ team performed as well as they had practised getting 71 points in driver skills.  The forecasted autonomous attempt was a significant unknown, as their practice runs were inconsistent with only about 1 in 4 runs obtaining the optimal score of 71 points. The girls had discovered that the results were so sensitive to how the robot was set up.  It seemed that 1mm could really impact the start, and if the robot did not start well, it would not be successful. 

In the image below shows the field at the end of 57999G’s first autonomous attempt.  At first glance, you might be really impressed.  “Wow, there are two stacks in that row”.  Each successful stack (in a row) gaining a whopping 30 points. So you may be thinking this was a 70 point attempt, but look closely at the stack on the far side.  See how the bottom riser is on the blue edge of the goal? Because it is not fully in the goal, it does not score.  Which means that there is not a completed row (3 points) and the two stacks don’t get the bonus points (30 points each).  So the score is only the sum of each riser successfully in the goal, in this picture only 4 points. 

Whether through luck or attention to detail, the girls’ team achieved success on the second autonomous run gaining a fantastic 71 points in autonomous skills.  When a novice looks at the score board, it would be easy to conclude that 57999G won by a long shot. However, if the autonomous program was unable to complete that row on a subsequent attempt, they would have only come second in the tournament.

Finally, congratulations to both teams for getting the skills awards for the middle school and elementary divisions.  However, I encourage you to keep continuous improvement going.  It is only the beginning of the season, and you have a spot in the nationals now.

So, kids, I have some questions for you:

  1. Why is your robot autonomous program inconsistent and sensitive?
  2. Is there something that could be changed in the riser pick up design to:
    1. Increase the probability of the robot being able to pick up the riser?
    1. Secure the second riser so that it does not fall off?

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