A new record was set this semester, with the biggest group ever signing up for Intro to Engineering in Room 202. The eighth cohort to take this class, they were full of excitement as they spent the last four weeks of class designing and building a LEGO robot to respond to Mr Meadth’s latest Final Challenge.
In some ways, this was the most difficult challenge yet: the robot would be placed in a square walled ring, collect a colored item, and deposit it outside of the ring. Sound simple? To scoop up a smooth plastic object on a smooth wooden floor and get it over that mere 3.5″ of height is far more difficult than it sounds! How does the robot know when it has the item in hand? How can it lift it up? How to release it? Should it be able to steer? How does it know when it hits the wall? Will it behave the same way every time?
The game area: an 8 ft wooden square, with 3.5″ high walls; five items were scattered for collection and removal
Mr Meadth’s advice to the students was plain: the robot that won this competition would be fast, simple, and reliable. Fast: this is a race against the clock, with only 30 seconds to beat the other robot in the ring. Simple: every additional moving part is one more thing that can go wrong. Reliable: it must do the same predictable thing time after time.
Left to right: Zach and Sam show their formidable forklift machine
After the last frantic rush of finishing work, eight complex machines lined up to take the floor. Bedecked with an impressive array of forklifts, scoops, and shovels, the robots stared each other down with baleful red eyes (ultrasonic sensors, actually, but the lure of personification is hard to overcome!).
Ruby and Brooklyne’s robot finds its way into the corner, missing the yellow item by a whisker!
After an intense Friday of preliminary rounds, it was clear that one team’s robot stood out head and shoulders above the rest; Emma and Donna’s machine was indeed fast and reliable. Spearing the item every time, undefeated in every round, they were placed in pole position. Honors also went to Avala and Isabela, who did excellently on the first day.
Left to right: Emma and Donna sit proudly after another winning round!
Emma and Donna (rear) narrowly beat out Avala and Isabela
Teams were given a chance over the weekend to regroup. Any programming or mechanical fixes could be carried out, in time for the elimination rounds. Several teams took advantage of this, and fine-tuned their bot in the hopes of gaining victory.
Left to right: Masa and Ma.kaha pause for the camera while the competition rages on behind them!
On the big day, it was made clear once again just how challenging this task was. Several teams did not score even onceâ€”it really is that hard! Many teams found their robot just didn’t know when to lift the item over the wall. The lesson was hard learned: a robot is utterly deaf, dumb, and blind except for proper sensors and programming.
Left to right: Isaac and Josiah carefully plan their attack vector
After several rounds, Emma and Donna once again distinguished themselves as undefeated at the top of the pack. Avala and Isabela also scored solid victories. Josiah and Isaac also scored a victory, as did Sam and Zach. Caleb and Harry deserve an honorable mention; in the last round they were finally able to remove an item from the field… but it hit the ground a quarter-second later than their opponent!
The semi-final was swift and to the point. Emma and Donna maintained their winning streak by pushing Avala and Isabela out of the competition. Isaac and Josiah beat out Sam and Zach and advanced to the final round.
Would Emma and Donna meet their final match? Sadly for the boys, not this time, and not ever! In an astounding display of consistency, the girls won yet againâ€”with a personal best of 4 secondsâ€”while the boys swung wide and missed the target altogether. Flawless victory!
The final victory! Our photographer Isaiah captures the winning moment an instant before the item hits the ground.
As always, congratulations to all participants, and to the many parents, staff members, and friends who came out to see the competition across both days. We were thrilled to have you, and we look forward to seeing what the next Final Challenge will be.
From left to right: Caleb, Harry, Zach, Josiah, Zach, Isaac, Brooklyne, Ruby, Avala, Isabela, Emma, Donna, Cameron, Alan, James, Ma.kaha, Masa, Isaiah, Sydney, Abby, Mr Meadth
630 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, USA