Monday, September 26, 2016

Robotics Update - Fall of 2016

Having decided that in retirement I would take a pass on golf, yoga and buying an RV I instead am devoting my efforts to teaching robotics.  So, you might ask, "How's that workin' out?"

As it happens the World contains multiple opportunities for a person with atypical interests and abilities....who is willing to work for free.

Fall of 2016 finds me with variable levels of involvement in three different programs.  In ascending order of complexity they are:

1. FIRST Lego League.

This is the elementary/middle school program of FIRST Robotics.  The mechanical side of things is quite basic, the kids just snap together little plastic bits.  But there are things to be learned that way.  It is actually heavy on the programming side, of which I know little.  I probably should not count this one as I just had a look in an advisory role. 

The team meets in one of the odder work spaces I have been in.  It is a converted racquet ball court.  Frankly I find it disconcerting.  Stark flourescent lighting and horrible acoustics thanks to the very high ceilings.

Legos were deployed.  The little programmable computer seems to work but needed new batteries.

2.  The ongoing Middle School program.

Is it really year 16 of this?  This year's crop looks promising.  Some are annoying and a bit disruptive.  That is often the case with pre-teens after a long day in school.  I have found that the students with the most up side in terms of what they can accomplish often are a bit more of a pain in the rear than the average kids.  So....patience.

Already this bunch has impressed me.  I detailed some of them to dismantle Barbie Jeep gearboxes and to both explain their workings and come up with a method of hacking them for more effective weaponization.  Darned if they did not come up with a novel and apparently workable idea....

On a trip to Axman Surplus I picked up several slabs of a dense, tough foam substance. Its the kind of stuff they make archery targets out of.  It looks to be a very good option for wheels.

Another revelation this year.  As I am learning Solidworks software why not work with the kids to design and 3D print parts for their robots?  The school has a nice 3D printer right down the hall. 

Here we are designing an adapter hub with a gearbox laid open in front of us.  The gearbox is covered in grease which is probably good for my micrometer but gets the keys on the laptop a little messy.

I consider this a transition year to some swell new tech and this could help a lot.  I suppose some joker will want to 3D the whole robot but my intent is to fabricate complicated hubs and perhaps servo holders.  This will translate over rather nicely to:

3. The High School FIRST team.

We only lost one member to graduation last year and expect to have the whole team back plus some new recruits.  As to what the Challenge will be this year, FIRST has put out another of their vague "teaser videos":

We won't find out the actual details until kickoff which is as it says, January 7, 2017.  But I have my suspicions.  Reading these teasers down to the last pixel is a FIRST tradition.  I am not going to give away my theory on what our robot will have to do but will instead offer a teasing clue of my own....


Stay tuned.

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