Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Building the Bot

I've been asked to write a bit about how we go about building our challenge robot.  As I thought about it, I've realized that our methods have changed over the past three years.  For instance, the first year we had three people working on the robot and they just started to build.  We didn't talk about what we would do or plan in any way.  Our robot turned out very big and clunky.  We didn't even change it as the season went on.  In our second year everyone built their own design on their own and then met and voted on what design we liked best.  But then, we decided that we didn't like that design and another team member came up with a robot and we just kept that.  This, our third year, in my opinion has been the most successful.  This is what we did.
We had 8 hours to come up with a design for this years upcoming challenge-Climate Connections.  First we sketched out our ideas for certain parts of the robot such as wheels, base and framing.  We voted on our favorite designs for each of those parts and then put them all together.  Then we sketched out our final design.  
Now came the fun part-building it!  We had one team building the framing of the general robot.  The second team was working on the wheels.  The third worked on attachment framing.  The result was a very sturdy and accurate robot.  Now that I've shared a bit about how our team has approached the building, here are some other things you need to consider in any robot design.  
Simplicity is key-this is especially important if your robot falls apart (during competition even) you need to be able to quickly rebuild without having to go back to your blue print.  This brings up a good thing to do-document your robot on LDD (LEGO digital designer) or by taking multiple pictures of it as you build.  Simplicity also becomes a plus when you have to make a battery switch-this almost always involves taking the brick off the frame in order to switch batteries.  You don't want to remove the brick and not be able to figure out how to get it back on!  Another thing to consider in this area is how will you access the ports.  Make sure that your framing doesn't make it impossible to get to your ports.  Lastly, a very important thing is being able to see your screen.  Without clearly seeing the LCD screen, you can't navigate through your programs or see what program the robot is currently on.  
I've got lots more to say but, that's enough for a new team to consider.  Hopefully, you can read this and learn to not make the same mistakes we did when building our robot.  See you at competition!  

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