Tuesday, April 12, 2016

FIRST Robotics - Retro Tech

Our FIRST robotics tournament featured 60 robots.  Approximately 59 of them had a higher degree of technology than ours.  As I mentioned in a previous posting, we finished in 9th place and actually slid up a notch to become one of eight teams who not only made the finals but got to pick the two other "Alliance Members" we would take into the arena with us.

A few pictures of our "retro" robot.

FIRST robots are mostly made of aluminum.  Specifically of aluminum stock that has pre-cut channels in it to make bolting things together easy.  Our robot was made of welded together steel. This was actually quite a novelty to pit visitors.  As a coach/mentor we are supposed to view things from afar, just let the kids run the show.  But as a bemused observer I could not help but notice that visitors peered at the robot, brows slightly furrowed. "What is this strange metal that is not aluminum?".

Here is the robot with the protective bumpers off.  This makes it easier to see.  Note the welded tube steel. Note also the steel pipe that I had the kids bend. (specifically its rigid EMT conduit if you're curious).  The two smaller white wheels on the front are used lawn mower wheels.  In our prototype build phase I just grabbed old stuff from my basement.  They kept on working so we never changed to anything better. The light colored metal plate came from the FIRST supplied "Kit of Parts".  All the darker colored stuff is steel from the scrap bin.  Where it has been welded and cut it was done by the kids. Inspection teams always asked about that, as if not believing that a rookie team has members who can handle a MIG welder and a plasma torch.  I am certain that our machine has as much steel in it as the rest of the competitive field combined.

The cart is also kid built.  The wheels are from Axman surplus and started life on an airport luggage cart. They have had a few other stops on the way to get here.

The pit crew doing their pre-match check of belts and electrical connectors.  The yellow cord is a simple bungee holding the battery in.  The steel loop is from a garden gate.

You will see in this photo some bits of tape stuck here and there.  As a style point I did not allow duct tape in the build process. But the Inspection Team insisted on a few rough edges being covered to avoid cuts and scrapes in situations like the above.  At least I had some on hand in the proper team color.

I have mixed feelings about technology.  At these events I do, usually, keep my sense of humor in check. But with my somewhat Amish looking beard I was tempted to come up to the pit, nod appreciatively and say:

"Ah. Greatly pleased I am, neighbor, to see the Olde Ways being followed".

But I know that while sturdy craftsmanship will never go out of style the future belongs to those who can  change with the times.  Perhaps this very successful machine will be the final stage of evolution for the Junk Bot.  And like the dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous Period, the most impressive beasts came forth thunderously just before extinction.

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