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Cool Project: Arty the Dual-Bot

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Cool Project - ArtyFor our latest Cool Project, we have guest bloggers, Team 8086A – Team Semiconductors to discuss their unique dual-bot for last year’s VEX Robotics Skyrise competition. They went on to win the 2015 World Championship Science Division Create Award! Read more below …

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For the 2014-2015 VEX Robotics game, Skyrise, Team 8086A, Team Semiconductors, built a very unique robot, a dual-bot. This robot’s unique design included many advantages, most significantly the ability to multitask. However, along with the advantages came many challenges. The team worked hard all year to conquer the challenges and the assistance of ROBOTC in many of these challenges was invaluable.

Team Semiconductors

Team Semiconductor is a group of friends in Glen Allen, Virginia.  This independent team has its roots in two middle school VEX World Championship competitive robotics teams, Team Theodore (6740C) and Team Dave (6740D).  Several students from the two teams and their school’s Technology Student Association (TSA) who were moving on to high school and wanted to compete in VEX Robotics banded together to create a new team, Team Semiconductors.  Midway through the 2014-2015 season (Skyrise), the team revealed their one-of-a-kind design: Arty the Dual-Bot.

Semiconductors 01

Skyrise

Skyrise was the 2014-2015 Vex robotics game. The goal of Skyrise was to build a skyrise (a yellow pylon, built piece by piece). 4 points were awarded each section built, and putting cubes (hollow cubes, 8 inches wide) on the skyrise were worth another 4 points each. Then, you could put the cubes on varying height poles for 2 points, and if you had the top cube on the post, you scored 1 extra point. This was the tallest game vex had ever made. The highest item was the robot built skyrise which at max was about 60 inches tall.

Semiconductors 02

Arty: The Dual-Bot

Arty is a very unique robot designed to compete in Skyrise: a dual-bot. Arty consisted of two parts each performing specialized tasks simultaneously: an immovable tower that is dedicated to building a skyrise, and a rover, whose task is to move around the field placing cubes on poles and on the skyrise. These two pieces have a connector running between the two holding the wiring, and they also give the robot its name, “Arty” (RT for Rover/Tower).

 


 

Team Semiconductors had multiple reasons for using a dual-bot. The most important reason was the ability to multi-task, which allowed for higher scoring and the ability to still compete if our alliance partner is a no-show. This bot was made possible due to the high scoring potential in the starting area, with scoring skyrises. We noticed that many robots that would do skyrises wouldn’t even leave the starting square for the first minute, while stacking skyrises. We thought it would be best to have a stationary robot in there to score those while another part of our robot was doing something else. One of the biggest advantages of the stationary tower was its precision; instead of relying on time to move the skyrise, we could use potentiometers to measure the position of our claw, and drop the pylon once it lined up.

Arty can score high by itself in matches, up to 58 points on its own without autonomous bonus, allowing it to be able to carry most matches, regardless of alliance partner. It also has high skills scores, with the second highest Driver Skills and Programming Skills scores in Virginia, with 43 and 27 points, respectively.

Semiconductors 03

Why ROBOTC

Two main factors came into play for us choosing ROBOTC to program Arty: it’s easy to learn and it has the ability to use tasks. The first factor was essential, as our team had no previous experience in ROBOTC. The only previous experience with programming robots our team had came from using block code. The transition to using a text-based language, especially one we had almost no base in was worrying, and lead to questions about our ability to learn the language in-time to program the robot. Our lead programmer had experience in programming languages, but no experience in C-based languages, meaning there was a lot of learning involved in the first few weeks of programming. However, after those few weeks, we felt confident in our abilities with the program, and were able to create the complex programs used in Arty with almost no syntax trouble.

The second factor was specific mainly to Arty, but still very important. Due to Arty being a dual-bot, we needed a way to run programs for the rover and the tower at the same time. This was allowed by tasks, which can run side by side with each other, unlike functions, which run one after the other. These tasks allowed us to run the rover and tower side by side, but also allowed for smaller additions to increase efficiency.

Semiconductors 04

How ROBOTC was Used

As mentioned above, one of the key elements of our programming of “Arty” was the use of tasks for the control of both rover and tower. We used separate tasks in both driving and autonomous functions. We also used tasks to increase efficiency in our programs. For example, we used tasks to turn the tower arm and raise the tower simultaneously instead of one after the other to save time. One problem we came up against with tasks was the inability to pass inputs into the tasks. To get around this we created functions that modified global variables and then called the tasks, and used those global variables for things that would’ve needed to be input into the task.

One of the most interesting things we did in the rover’s drive tasks was creating a turret-centric drive. The turret on rover that could swing 360 degrees was always facing forward on the robot. Since we had an X-drive, any direction could be the front of the robot; it was all in how we programmed the wheels. One of the biggest problems rover had was its inability to turn without getting tangled in the connector. We put a turret on the top of the robot to prevent us from having to turn, but this made driving awkward. The solution to this: a turret-centric drive. We measured the location of the turret with a quad encoder and adjusted the values in Robot C according to which way the turret was facing. This made it so that whenever we hit up on the joystick the rover always drove in the direction its turret was facing, making it much easier to drive, since it now had a distinct “front”.

Semiconductors 05

In programming our tower, we found that we were always doing the same thing, but we were just changing times for movement, and target locations to account for swing. To save time and space in our program we used a for loop that looped for however many skyrises we were going to build. At the start of the loop we had a switch statement to assign all the values based on which piece we were stacking. We then had our previous generic code that we had been writing out inserted, with variables instead of numbers being used. This saved a lot of time in programming, as all values that needed to be adjusted were easily found in one place.

Due to the way the tower was built, sometimes our arm would get caught on something, and not finish the turn. To get around this our turn function had a self-check built in. At the start of the task, we would calculate approximately how long it should take for our arm to reach its position. At the end of the time period, we would then check to make sure we were in position. If we were not, we’d raise our arm and then try to turn again. This process would repeat for 3 times at most. If it reached its location, it would then lower the arm the same amount it raised it and continue the program. If it never reached its location it would set a variable to false, and then the program would stop, to avoid wasting scoring objects by dropping them.

 

 

ROBOTC helped the team maximize our unique robot design and Team Semiconductors went on to win the 2015 World Championship Science Division Create Award with Arty the dual-bot. You can learn more about Team Semiconductors and follow us on social media at http://www.VEXTeam8086.org.

– Team Semiconductors

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Test Your Skills with our Virtual Competitions!

VEX-RVW

If you’re looking for a cost-effective and fun way to participate in a robotics competition, check out or low cost, high quality virtual competitions that enable students to test their problem solving and programming skills.

Our VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World Competitions both simulate the single-player Robot Skills and Programming Skills modes of the physical Nothing But Net and Bank Shot competitions. And, the winners of the Robomatter sponsored VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World competition will receive an invitation to the VEX World Championship April 20-23, 2016 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville Kentucky! To learn more, check out this blog post.

Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!

Written by Cara Friez

January 6th, 2016 at 6:00 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ Tetris

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CP VEX IQ TETRISTetris is a beloved and well-known classic game that many of us have been addicted to at one point or another. We wait patiently for that perfect “Tetrimino” that will create a horizontal line so the board continues to move down so the game keeps going. Well, our latest Cool Project does just that, but on a VEX IQ brain and programmed in ROBOTC!

Petr Nejedly created the game as an experiment to see what could be done with the VEX IQ platform outside of robotics. He says, “I have coded it ad-hoc in one night. The code is pretty … short, not really pretty. 233 lines including (rare) comments.” When we spoke through email he mentioned that game is currently not random at all. “So, my son came to me, that he has an improvement to the program. That I should use this random() function, it will be more fun to play … Teachable moment! We have discussed, how a computer, a very exact instrument that always follows the same instructions and in fact only moves numbers here and there, come up with random numbers. What is a PRNG and how you have to seed it (srand()), what are real sources of randomness and what kind of issues such a lack of true randomness could cause in real world, besides lack of fun.” At this point, Petr said he would like to leave the actual fix to the curious readers/programmers out there to see what they can do with it. (Let us know if you do!)

Check out the game in action here:

Petr was nice enough to share the souce code, which you can download here. You can also read the original VEX IQ forum discussing the project here.

Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!

Written by Cara Friez

December 3rd, 2015 at 6:15 am

Cool Project: EV3 Security Tank

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Cool Project EV3 TankKyle M. (aka Builderdude35) created a very cool project called the EV3 Krimzon Guard Security Tank! The tank is programmed in ROBOTC too, which was the first time Kyle programmed with our software. Kyle says, “[The EV3 Tank] features proportional IR beacon tracking, and a deadly-accurate turret targeting system. If that’s not enough, it also has a massive spiked steamroller on the front!”

 

 

 

 

Watch the tank in action here:

 

 

 

The tank includes an EV3 brick, two EV3 large motors, steam roller with spikes, a rotating dual-barrel turret, and three sensors! “There is a Mindsensors SumoEyes mounted on the chassis just above the steam roller (you will see the two red LED’s) that detects the targets in zones left, right or straight ahead. Just above that is a LEGO Infrared sensor that is used for beacon tracking. Lastly, there is a LEGO Ultrasonic sensor that rotates with the turret to confirm target acquisition.” Pretty awesome!

For a more detailed breakdown of the tank and code, visit his website here.

Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!

Written by Cara Friez

December 3rd, 2015 at 6:10 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ Game of Simon

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Cool ProjectDamien Kee, a VEX IQ Super User, designed a really cool and creative Game of Simon using a VEX IQ Smart Brain, three Touch LEDs, and programmed with ROBOTC.  He says, “This is my version of the Game of Simon for the VEX IQ. The TouchLED’s are an awesome input/output device that is just so natural to use. Programmed in ROBOTC and designed to be used as a way of teaching / reinforcing the concepts of arrays, in less than 100 lines of code.”

Check out the video below that shows it in action …

 

 

For a more detailed breakdown of the code, visit his website here. Damien also is sharing his code for others to use, which you can download here! (He just asks that if you do use it, please acknowledge and forgive any errors.)

Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!

Written by Cara Friez

November 2nd, 2015 at 6:00 am

5 Reasons to Start a Robotics Competition Team

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You may have seen our blog post from this past Friday on how to get a robotics competition team up and running but you may still be on the fence about whether or not to start a team.

Some of the benefits of robotics competition teams are the same as any extracurricular activity: social development, improving self-esteem, helping bolster a college application, giving kids a sense of belonging, etc. But, robotics competitions do even more. They inspire young people to pursue STEM careers, to be leaders in science and technology, and to be successful in the 21st century.

Here are just a few of the compelling reasons to start a robotics competition team:

Prepare students for the real world: In robotics competitions, students must work as a team to design, build, and program their own robot. Not only are students responsible for all aspects of project planning and preparing for the competition, if a robot breaks or malfunctions while competing, students must think on their feet and work together to come up with a solution. This teaches students what it’s like to work as a team to creatively solve problems under the pressure of a looming deadline.

 

Foster intense learning at all levels: If you’ve been part of a robotics competition team, you know that they’re anything but dull. Competitions immerse students in dynamic teamwork, creative challenges, technical problems, project planning, project management, time management, computational thinking, design thinking, and a whole lot of other stuff. As they work to apply the engineering process to real-world problems, students must figure out how to work within the parameters they’re given, but must also figure out how to be as creative as possible within those parameters.

This adds up to a whole lot of STEM and 21st century learning as students plan, adapt, iterate, improvise, prototype, design, and redesign their robots. And, since competition teams often travel, kids get the added bonus of meeting new people and traveling to new places, sometimes even internationally.

 

Get students interested in STEM: Did you know that three-quarters of the fastest growing occupations require significant mathematics or science preparation? And that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S? And did you know that twenty-eight percent of US companies say that at least half of their new entry-level hires lack basic STEM literacy?*

There are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. One way to stop this “STEM crisis” is to get more kids interested in pursuing STEM careers, and robotics competitions are a great way to do that. By using STEM skills and concepts to solve real-world problems, student get to apply their math and science skills in a fun and interesting way, and this can help spark students’ life-long interest in STEM.

 

There’s something fun for everyone: While building and programming your robot may be the team’s focus, there’s a lot more involved. Just like any IT company, the team also needs people who can design logos, create team merchandise, help with fundraising, track spending, coordinate and manage logistics, and all sorts of tasks that aren’t directly related to programming. This is a great way for kids to see how their skills can add value in a STEM-related field.

 

It’s a sport where everyone can turn pro: Unlike football, basketball, or even marching band, robotics is a field that provides each and every participant with a real chance to make it in the big leagues. Not only does being part of a competition team provide students with important real-world skills, competitions are also a great place to make industry connections, and they can also be a great way for kids to earn scholarships.

 

When you’re ready to start your competition team, remember that Robomatter has everything you need to get your team started. From hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.

 

Don’t have the funding to start a full competition team? You can still start competing using our Robot Virtual Worlds software and our online competitions. These can be a great way to give kids the benefits of being part of a competition team, without making a significant investment in resources.

If you’re interested in starting a robotics competition team, be sure to tune into our Webinar on September 9th and 7:00 pm ET, Using ROBOTC and RVW to prepare for VEX Competitions. Visit www.robotc.net/hangouts to join.

 

Get an inside glimpse into what it’s like to run a robotics competition team. Check out this story from our Teacher POV blog series where Branden Hazlet, Director of Technology for Maui Prep, shares his team’s experience at the 2015 VEX Worlds Championship in Louisville, KY.

 

*Survey on CEOs Say Skills Gap Threatens U.S Economic Future, Dec 3, 2014

 

 

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 9th, 2015 at 6:22 am

Want to Start a Robotics Competition Team but Don’t Know Where to Start?

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Starting a robotics competition team can seem overwhelming, but it’s not as scary as it seems. Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to do to get a team up and running:

  1. Choose a platform
    Now more than ever, robotics teams are faced with the important question of which platform they should purchase and use. LEGO and VEX are the two most widely used platforms. LEGO is primarily used for elementary through middle school (Ages 9 – 14), while VEX can be used for kids in elementary school through college (Ages 8 – 18+).Whether you choose LEGO or VEX, Robomatter has the resources you need to make your team successful, including hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.
  2. Pick your equipment
    Once you’ve chosen a platform, the next step is to pick your equipment. Whether you’ve decided to go with VEX or with LEGO, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy has a great resources page to provide you with all of the tools and information you need to get started.You can access the VEX page here and the LEGO page here.
  3. Choose your software  
    ROBOTC is a C-based programming language with a Windows-based environment for writing and debugging programs. It’s also the most used language for the VEX IQ Challenge, and for the VEX Robotics Competition. ROBOTC is the only solution that offers a comprehensive, real time debugger. It also comes with a Graphical interface, which is a great way to get new students started.In addition to ROBOTC, you may also want to check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot. With Robot Virtual Worlds, students can develop and test code on a simulated robot before running code on a real robot. They can also work on the robot when they’re at home, which means they don’t need to be in the classroom to prepare for the competition. With Robot Virtual Worlds, VEX users can also take part in online competitions.LEGO users can use Robot Virtual Worlds by adding on the Virtual Brick. By looking and acting like a LEGO Brain, the Virtual Brick allows teams to program virtual robots using the same programming language as they use to program real LEGO robots.
  4. Identify your technical and logistical requirements
    Here are some things you’ll need to think about:

    • Computers: You’ll want to have one computer for each robot/team of students.
    • Practice Area: The space should be large enough to accommodate the team, computer, practice table, and storage area for the robots.
    • Parts storage: To keep parts organized and accessible, parts organizers are a must. There are many options – portable organizers, drawer cabinets, boxes, caddies, etc. These are readily available online and at local hardware and craft stores.
    • Network – The software will need to be loaded on each computer or available via the network on each computer. Programs should be included in the regular system backup or a leader should make a backup to a separate disk or memory stick.
  5. Prepare a budget and get funding
    Your budget will need to take into account:

    • Robot kits and pats
    • Software
    • Parts organizers
    • Computers
    • Miscellaneous tools, parts, and supplies
    • Competition entry fees
    • Travel expenses, including gas, food, and lodging
    • Team shirts or other items to promote your team at the event

    Some potential sources of funding include your school district, local businesses, and local non-profit organizations. You may also consider having a fund raiser, like a bake sale or car wash. Be sure to acknowledge your sponsors at every opportunity, such as printing their names on your team shirts, etc.

  6. Build your team and assign rolesIn terms of team size, we’ve found that first-time coaches typically do well with about eight students. For larger teams, or if you have the resources, recruit other mentors for your team to lead the subgroups.Once you’ve built your team, the next step is to define roles. We recommend having students change roles on a regular basis, allowing them to share responsibility for all aspects of building, programming, etc. These are the roles we recommend:
    • Engineer (Builder)
    • Software Specialist (Programmer)
    • Information Specialist (Gets the necessary information for the team to move forward)
    • Project Manager (Whip-cracker)
  7. Plan, build, test, and iterate Once you have your equipment, funding, and team in place, you’re ready to get started!To make your team most effective, it’s a good idea to stick to a schedule. Create a schedule that fits your team’s objectives and resources. When you’re ready to build your robot, be sure to familiarize yourself with the competition rules and requirements. If you have questions, reach out to the community for help. There are a lot of great forums out there, such as the ROBOTC forum.Remember, an important part of the process is testing and iteration. Make sure your team knows it’s going to take time to get it right. Luckily, both the VEX and LEGO platforms allow teams to quickly build, test, iterate, and repeat. Even still, students may get frustrated by this process. Remind them that building, programming, and testing a robot doesn’t always go as planned. But, even though a design may have failed, it’s still a valuable learning opportunity, with lessons that can be applied to the next time you try.

If you’re interested in starting a robotics competition team, be sure to tune into our Webinar on September 9th and 7:00 pm ET, Using ROBOTC and RVW to prepare for VEX Competitions. Visit www.robotc.net/hangouts to join.

 

 

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 4th, 2015 at 6:30 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ Motorized Skateboard

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Burf SkateboardSimon Burfield (a.k.a. Burf …an amazing nickname!) designed and programmed a VEX IQ Motorized Skateboard! This VEX IQ skateboard uses  2 VEXIQ brains / batteries, and 16 motors connected to 8 omnidirectional wheels. It is also programmed in ROBOTC!

 
 
 
 
 
 


 
Check out Burf’s website here for more cool project!

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robotc.net.

Written by Cara Friez

August 13th, 2015 at 7:15 am

Cool Project: LEGO EV3 Sorter Machine

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CH Chen created a cool project and shared it with us! This LEGO EV3 Sorter machine is able to detect the color of Lego Technic beams and then add it to the appropriate slot of the three colors.

 

 

BrickSorter_Mechanism

 

 

Click here to see the code! And check out CH Chen’s blog with even more of his projects.

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robotc.net.

Written by Cara Friez

July 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am

Best #ROBOTC Twitter Posts – 3rd Edition

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We LOVE getting Twitter posts sent to us about ROBOTC. In the last few months, you have shared even more great posts and pictures with us. We decided to make a THIRD compilation of some of our favorites so you can check out some of the cool projects going on …

Do you have a ROBOTC picture/video/post you would like to share with us on Twitter? If so, include #ROBOTC or @ROBOTC in your message.

Written by Cara Friez

June 18th, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Do you have a Cool ROBOTC Project??

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Cool Projects 2

The end of the school year is here and to celebrate, we’d love to showcase some of the ROBOTC projects and code you’ve been working on all year long! If you have a cool project (like these!) send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com with a description and your code, pictures, and/or videos. We’ll share it on our blog in an upcoming post!

Written by Cara Friez

June 4th, 2015 at 6:00 am