There are many organizations around the world that sponsor robot competitions for school students from Jr High to College. While there are some good things about these competitions, there are also some things that I really dont like. For example, a team is given a problem to solve with an autonomous robot. It is good that the team has to work together to solve the problem, but doesn't the fact that the team is given a specific issue to resolve also limit their imagination? Doesn't this prevent them from being truly inventive? Wouldn't it be better for a team to be told to create whatever they want to create and we will judge you on your ability to imagine, research, develop, solve problems and complete the project. I realize that this is too open ended for most robotic platforms as they are pretty limited, but with EZ-Robot I believe that this type of a competition is possible.
It is because of these thoughts swirling in my head and the possibilities set before the robotics program that I am working with, that I want to ask this community this. If there were an international competition for EZ-Robot like there is for Botball, FIRST and some other groups, what would you want it to look like? Would it be like the traditional competitions or much more open, or both? Would you ask the robots to do specific tasks to compete, or would you lay out say 20 competitions and see which teams single bot could perform the best at these 20 competitions?
I ask this because the push in robotics that I have seen lately is to have a robot that is capable of multiple tasks instead of a single task. A robot that can mow lawns is great, but a robot that can do home automation like turning off a sprinkler system or at least knowing when the lawn was last watered before mowing the lawn is much better. Add to this the ability to know what the weather forecast is so it knows it probably wont get rained on along with a humidity sensor and some others and you have an intelligent robot that is capable of mowing the lawn without being killed off by water. Now, make that robot a key part of an automated Green House by allowing it to be the brain that controls the Green House and you have a really cool robot that becomes really useful all year around. The competitions would ask you to build a robotic lawn mower. The imagination lets you take this much further and allows you to create a robot that is really useful and protects itself. In my opinion, this is where we need to be with our school programs and competitions.
I would love to hear this community's thoughts because some of the brightest robot builders are members of this community. Your insight could be very helpful.
Another idea is maybe a 4 day challenge where the teams don't find out what the competition is until they arrive and they have 4 days to build a robot that will compete on the 5th day.
The school that I am helping just got back from the international Botball tournament so it got me thinking about what would be possible with EZ-Robot.
Here's an idea, which, if done right, could make profit.
Start your own competition with robotics friends near you. Live stream it and advertise like heck. next year make it open to everyone. Have your friends bring they're friends. slowly make it into a bigger thing. Once popular, make it a wide spread competition. Charge admission.
(Note: I'm in an imaginative mood )
Objective: Multiple categories. For example:
Executing simple to difficult tasks,
Amount of personality,
Difficulty of build/design,
I really dont want to start a competition like this as it would be very hard to manage, but who know... I might. I have to sleep on it for about 6 months and see if anything else happens to change my mind or change the ideas that I have floating around.
The school that I am helping out does well at these competitions. There are issues with that. For people who are not very technical and dont understand that these competitions are based on old 10 year old ideas, they think that the program is great. What they dont understand is how much more could be accomplished by using technology that is current. Not having to learn objective C to make a robot move 10 inches is a major step forward in robotics. EZ-Robot allows you to decide what you want your robot to do, and frees you to work on those things instead of the simplest of things. It allows anyone to do this instead of just the guy willing to go through the torture of learning an archaic language. We all know this and I am preaching to the choir here.
It is difficult to gain traction for change when the perception is that we are one of the top robotics schools in this area. Why would we change? With technology though, and especially robotics right now, things are changing quickly and those old platforms are getting left in the dust. It isnt good enough anymore to be good in your area. I think the main hurtle to getting this into many schools is the lack of a competition at this point. That is the one question that was asked of me that I had to say no to. I personally dont like the competitions as mentioned earlier, but a school that uses them as a major draw into the program is going to be concerned if they are not available for the students.
I have been thinking today about who I would contact to see if they would sponsor such an event. I know that NASA sponsors a lot of these events. Some of the large defence contractors, Coke, auto makers and the like could sponsor, but they already sponsor so many of the other competitions that I dont know how willing they would be to sponsor another event like this. The other issue is that I am in the backyard of BotBall's international home. It is actually about 20 miles from my house. Getting other schools in this area to participate is going to take some time. Hmm, will be thinking on this...
Here is what I have so far. Please let me know what you think.
I have a school that will allow me to use their facilities, along with the maker space that I am a part of that will let me use their facilities.
10 competition challenge - 100 point possible (+10%) (take place over 3 days) A single robot must compete in all 10 of these challenges.
1. Entertain our judges. (10 pts)
2. Navigate to the back corner of a room that is filled with objects that are no taller than 3 inches and press a button (10 Pts)
3. Navigate to the back corner of a room that is filled with objects that are of various heights and turn a knob, and then return. Things may also be hanging from the ceiling. (10 Pts)
4. Complete a maze, press a button, and then return through the same maze to press another button. Maze will have a mesh covering. (10 Pts)
5. Navigate to flashing beacons in a gym in order (10 Pts)
6. Find and identify distance of an object from a point as quickly as possible. (10 Pts)
7. Identify objects on a floor, retrieve them and sort them into multiple bins based on color and shape. (10 Pts)
8. Map a room that has various objects in it. Most complete map from ground level in quickest time wins (10 Pts)
9. Identify 10 people’s faces and perform an action based on each face identified. This can be anyone you choose. Photos and names must be turned into judges at entry (10 pts)
10. Autonomous movement and object avoidance based on a changing environment. (10 Pts)
48 hour challenge - 100 point possible. (+10%) (Take place over 2 days)
The challenge will be given and a piece of paper time and date stamped when the challenge is given. Your team has 48 hours to complete the build and programming the robot to complete the challenge. The robot can be the same robot used in the 10 competition challenge. The challenge will not be one of the 10 challenges above. Prewritten and reusable code is admissible.
6 robot challenge - 100 point possible (+10%) (Take place the last day)
6 robots will be required to function together and communicate to complete this challenge. There will be 6 buttons placed in a room. The robots will have to
Navigate to the buttons (1 to each) and then press the buttons as close to the same time as possible. Winner will be first determined by how close to the same time these buttons are pressed. If there is a tie, the winner will be chosen by the total time it took to complete the challenge.
Rules and guidelines
If a team uses the same robot for more than one of the competitions (10 competition challenge, 48 hour challenge or 6 robot challenge) they will be awarded an additional 10% of their score for each of the 3 major categories.
Each team will have up until the moment they compete to modify their robot including programming of their robot. The ability for the robot to complete the challenges will be the large majority of the completion score. Technical documentation on the robot entered for the 10 competition challenge and 6 robots used in the 6 robot challenge must be received by June 1, 2015 via email. Technical documentation will be reviewed and points awarded to the teams based on the information contained in the 10 competition challenge.
The robot must operate and compete in these challenges without any human interaction other than starting the robot or its code. No human involved remote control.
Any controller or computer is eligible. Any programming language, operating system or other robot control device that is not controlled by a human is eligible.
All teams will be required to present their robots, technical specifications and other information requested on the last day of competition. Questions will be asked to these students and they will have to be able to answer these questions.
Help from outside the school from individuals not employed by the school is encouraged. We view this competition as a great way for students to learn and be mentored from professionals in the field. This is not required, but encouraged.
The only requirement for entry into the competition is that the team must consist of students from the same Oklahoma school district. These students do not have to be in the same level of education. This allows students from elementary school to be mentored by and team up with students from a high school.
Batteries must be securely fastened to the robot. All charging of batteries will need to be done by a charger capable of monitoring the battery and shutting itself off. All batteries will be inspected before charging, and before competitions.
All chargers and batteries will be inspected at the time the robots are entered into the competition. Staff will be walking around monitoring the charging stations. If the battery is deemed to be unsafe, the battery will be marked and will not be admissible for use in any of the competitions. Batteries will be available for purchase at the event, however due to the number of battery variations, please be prepared to make modifications to your robot to handle various types of battery systems. The batteries that will be for sale will be 7.4 volt 2000 mAh lipo batteries with 4 different terminal connection possibilities. This will help to accommodate the largest number of terminal connection possibilities. Additional battery types will be available through multiple retail outlets within 10 miles of the event location.
Work areas will be provided for the teams no later than 1 hour prior to their competition starting. This will be enough time to top off the batteries and do any last minute adjustments. The team will have a designated time that they will compete each day. If there is a delay, the team will still be given the time they need to prepare their robot in this work area, up to 1 hour. If the team shows up less than 1 hour prior to their competition start time, they will forfeit the amount of time that they were late.
Each team will be give 10 slips of paper numbered 1-10. At the time that the team is supposed to compete in the 10 competition challenge, a slip of paper will be pulled by a judge. This will identify which competition this team will compete in at that time.
WOW! Awesome idea(s)....it strikes me as rather challenging. Having been to a few competition I'm not sure University level students could succeed at all those challenges. I like the challenges, but I'm worried you may have the bar set rather high.
In the rules the only thing I did not see was a mandate for safety inspection and remote kill switch. You never know what folks might come up with (my robot has saws for wheels) (our robot is called "the inferno".
Great point on the safety part.
The competitions are pretty weak right now. Also, if a team competes and doesnt complete a challenge, its no big deal. it doesn't take them out of the competition or the overall chance to win. Also, the points are given to who does the best down to the worst. The scoring would be something like
10 for first place
9 for second
8 for 3rd
7 for 4-6
6 for 8-10
5 for 10-15
if nobody completes the challenge, the team that made it the furthest would be 1st place and so on.
I need to add all of this into the rules. They get very long...
I really want it to be a challenge. That is why any platform is available. Its also something that the students will be able to work on throughout the year and then compete at the beginning of the summer. It would be really cool.
There will be a $250.00 entry fee per team. This will help to offset the cost of the event. Hotels are available within 2 miles of the event. Concession food will be available at the event. Restaurants are also near by the event. A list of hotels and restaurants will be available.
With school budgets being tight, we wanted to offer this competition as an alternative to far more expensive competitions that are held in unreasonable and very expensive locations. Our goal is to have as many students participate as possible. There is no limit on the type of material used to build your robot. The competitions are designed to be solved in a number of ways. Because of the nature of the competition, it is entirely possible to not complete a competition but still win the overall competition. Because of this, the robot could be very light and made of materials that are very inexpensive. Robots could use flight, walking, tracked, wheeled or any other type of mobility platform to compete in these competitions.
If you know anyone who would be interested in sponsoring this competition, please have them contact D.Cochran@cochranrobotics.com.
I like the part about NO REMOTE.
Keep those Creative Juices flowing!
I sort of want to compete in this contest, I'm a big kid at heart, would that count?
Have you ever heard of the Trinity Collage "Robot Firefighters" contest ? I've seen it
in action an is very interesting. Many from all over the world attend.