2015 Spring Camp Eureka! VEX IQ

Day 1, 3/16/2015

March 16th was the first day of our 2015 Spring Camp Eureka! We welcomed 6 young students to our classroom to learn the basics of robotics through the VEX IQ platform.

To start off the day, we went over a few house rules, and proceeded with an icebreaker to have the students get to know each other, as well as the mentors. Each mentor and student was to introduce themselves by saying their name, school, grade, age, and their favorite color. We learned that we people tend to have very interesting and specific favorite colors.

After introductions, we had the students write in their journals about themselves, what they know about robotics, and a robot that they would like to design to benefit the world.

Finally,we introduced them to their first challenge, and  had them begin building their robot. The objective of the day was to build a robot with two motors that would maneuver through a maze. The maze is a simple course on the floor outlined by tape. Teams will be competing to see who can run through the maze the fastest. However, they will get points deducted for every time they cross the tape. The students are challenged to choose if they want their robot to be fast so they can finish quick, or slow, so they can control their robot and avoid the tape.

Because there are only six students this camp, each student forms a team with multiple mentors. The teams were then given two motors, a robot brain, controller, and access to whatever other parts they needed. Because there are only two motors provided and four wheels to power, the teams had to use gears to make the wheels turn together from one motor.

Also because there are so few participants, we will be providing a “free win” at the competition for the winners of our challenges given throughout the week.

Next class, the students will be competing in the maze challenge to see who built the best robot for the task. Then we will introduce them to another challenge.

Day 2, 3/17/2015

March 17th was the second day of our 2015 Spring Camp Eureka!

Today we had a short lesson on gear ratios. Gears are an important part of engineering, especially in robotics. Gears that are linked will alternate directions, and speed of a gear will change inversely relative to the change in size between the gears. For races, such as the maze race, it may be favorable to have a larger gear linked to a smaller gear, so that the smaller gear will turn faster, and can be used to turn the wheels of the robot faster. However, teams must be careful not to make their robot too fast, as it can cause the robot to become too fast to effectively control.

After break time, we held the maze competition, which all teams performed well in. The two fastest robots had an excellent balance between speed and control. The final winner of the maze challenge was Michael Ray, demonstrating excellent maneuverability, avoiding penalties throughout the entire maze. This earns Michael a free advancement to the semi final match at competition day.

We proceeded to introduce the drag race competition. This course is a simple straight track with a single 180 degree turn at the end. This challenge is designed to have the students concentrate on having an extremely fast robot, while still considering the effect it would have on the overall control of the robot.

 

Day 3, 3/18/2015

March 18th was the third day of our 2015 Spring Camp Eureka!

Today the students worked primarily on building their robot to be as fast as possible in preparation for the Drag Race competition. This is most easily done by use of gear ratios to promote speed. In the Drag Race, teams must travel down a straight path, and then make a U-turn and come straight back.

Once teams were ready, the race was held. The results show that although it is important to travel fast, it is still important to stay in control. Here, teams who had used a gear ratio too fast for them to stay in control of their robots movements often found themselves spinning aimlessly or crossing over boundaries.

Teams that used gear ratios in moderation were able to perform well, staying in control, while still enjoying the advantages of speed promoting gear ratios. The winner of the Drag Race Challenge was Micah Yamanaka. Along with Michael, Micah has earned himself a free advancement to the semifinals.

At the end of the day, we gave a small hint of the official 2015 VEX IQ Camp Eureka game, presenting the students with the very same water bottles that they receive at break time(after being washed thoroughly). Their challenge for the rest of the day was to plan and prototype a method to manipulate these bottles.

Day 4, 3/19/2015

March 19th was the fourth day of our 2015 Spring Camp Eureka!

Today we started up having the students continue their prototypes for possible ways to manipulate the plastic water bottles.

Once most teams had a general idea, we introduced to them the 2015 Spring Vex IQ Competition game. This camp’s game is called Eco Friendly Neighbors, a game between two robots to see who can make themselves look the most eco friendly. This game was inspired by our own 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition game, Recycle Rush.

In Eco Friendly Neighbors, teams play on a standard 4’x8’ Vex IQ field, separated down the middle by a ‘fence’ separating the neighbors. On each side of the field are plastic bottles, four in the corners standing upright and six bottles lying down by the ‘fence’. Teams can make themselves look more eco friendly by tossing water bottles onto their neighbors side, effectively making the neighbors less eco friendly, or score their own bottles into recycling bins, making them look incredibly eco friendly. At the end of each match, bottles on the floor area are worth -1 point and bottles in their recycling bins are worth 2 points.

The rest of the day teams were given time to develop strategies, lift mechanisms, and manipulators to score as many points as possible.

 

Day 5, 3/20/2015

March 20th was the last day, and the competition day of our 2015 Spring Camp Eureka!

Today teams got straight to work, as they only had half of the day left to prepare for the competition. Many teams experienced great difficulties picking up the water bottles, as they had a claw mechanism that would close on either side of an upright bottle, but none that could pick up the bottles laying down. This lead to the development of a wide variety of manipulators.

After break time, all teams were prepared with a unique design, strategy, and hope to impress their parents. At the patio, we began the 2015 Spring Vex IQ Camp Eureka competition. Again, this year’s game is Eco Friendly neighbors. In Eco Friendly Neighbors, teams play on a standard 4’x8’ Vex IQ field, separated down the middle by a ‘fence’ between the neighbors. On each side of the field are plastic bottles, four in the corners standing upright and six bottles lying down by the ‘fence’. Teams can make themselves look more eco friendly by tossing water bottles onto their neighbors side, effectively making the neighbors less eco friendly, or score their own bottles into recycling bins, making them look incredibly eco friendly. At the end of each match, bottles on the floor area are worth -1 point and bottles in their recycling bins are worth 2 points.

This competition was very interesting and exciting to watch, due to the variety of different approaches students took to the game. While some robots are designed to grab upright bottles and quickly recycle them, others are designed to pick up the bottles that are laying down, and yet others are designed to toss bottles across the field. The competitions ended up having a variety of outcomes, some matches were extremely close, with a few ties, while others showed that certain methods dominated the playing field. In the end it came down to a robot that could quickly and consistently pickup upright bottles, and one that could pick up bottles lying down. In the end, the tournament champion was Micah, who demonstrated that he could be a consistent eco friendly neighbor by consistently taking upright bottles and recycling them. We ended the day with a potluck, so everyone can relax at the end of a long week.

Although this camp only had six participants, it was just as fun as any other camp, as each mentor got to work with their child that much more. We would like to thank all of the parents, mentors, and students that made this camp possible. We hope to see you at another one of our camps, or at any other STEM related events.