Friday, February 26, 2010
Concord-Carlisle High School robot heads to competition
Back in the fall, a new Robotics Club was created as part of an initiative at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) called “Hooked on Science,” sponsored by the Concord Education Fund. This week, the team shipped off its first robot for the regional FIRST Robotics Competition, FRC. It will be held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute March 11–13. The CCHS team will compete all day on March 12.
Across the nation, teams will compete in the “Breakaway” robotics game. Teams play on a 27-foot by 54-foot field with bumps, attempting to earn points by collecting soccer balls in goals. For a visual of this, see an animation on the web at: www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=16209.
FIRST, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” is a not-for-profit organization, founded by Dean Kamen who invented the Segway, to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The Concord Education Fund paid the $5,500 entrance fee, which included some of the materials the team needed to build the robot.
All teams had six weeks to come up with a robot that meets the objective and criteria for competition. CCHS Science Department Chair Mike Vela explained that the team has been meeting daily during that time to build and control the robot. The chassis is done. The vehicle can get over a hump without getting hung up.
Carlisle parent volunteer Paul Anagnostopoulos said, “This is quite a coherent team the first year. They have shown a great deal of persistence, coming in over February vacation. He noted, however, “There is a very steep learning curve and the standard is so high.” He explained that more veteran teams can use parts from previous robots, while the CCHS team does not have that luxury.
Air cylinders and pistons are used for the kicking mechanism. The students had to do calculations to determine what size pistons to use. Larger pistons take more time to recharge. “The kicker” uses pneumatic pressure. The angle of the kicker has to be controlled so the height of the kick is correct.
Robot “senses” environment
There is a computer-controlled camera. Senior Douglas Chan and Freshman Daniel Beckwith programmed the computer-controlled camera using Labview, a graphical language. They need the camera to rotate and tilt to see what is around the robot. A photogate and a laser are used to determine if the ball is near the kicker. Students control the robot by downloading their computer programs into the onboard computer in the robot.
Senior Ben Anderson is enjoying the club. “Putting it all together is exciting. I hope all this hard work gets put to good use.”
Senior Marcus Kulik of Carlisle is enthusiastic. “I work on whatever has to be done.” He’s done a variety of tasks including some of the wiring, helping to design the kicker and creating the artwork for the exterior of the robot.
Senior Randy Chin of Carlisle said, “I have been researching how to hang on the tower.” He explained that the team can earn extra points if at the end of the competition their robot has a way to lift itself off the playing field. “It’s a rookie robotics team. It’s been an interesting experience.” In the end, however, the team decided not to spend time on this extra option and concentrated on the main tasks of the robot.
Co-advisor and CCHS physics teacher Michael Hamblin has been a resource for training in electronics and how to use some tools. Anagnostopoulos said, “Hamblin’s engineering expertise was invaluable.” Students have been getting additional mentoring from six engineers that have been volunteering their time teaching students basics in electronics and mechanics. Anagnostopoulos has been helping with the programming aspects. Most of the team had little or no programming background. He is the only adult from Concord or Carlisle.
The competition is free and open to the public. Come to WPI on March 12 to root for the CCHS team and see their robot in action. ∆
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