2017 July Camp Eureka Blog

This is a week long blog to document our 2017 July Camp! We have daily summaries, as well as pictures that we took throughout the week. This July Camp had a morning session from 8am-12pm, as well as an afternoon session from 1-5 pm. See below for more details!

Day 1 (July 10, 2017)

MORNING GENERAL SESSION

This morning we welcomed everyone to Camp and started the day off with a quick icebreaker called Shoe Talk and the exchange of buttons. Each student and mentor wears a button throughout camp that they bring home with them at the end of the week. We began by introducing the game. Similar to last year’s Vex IQ game, Crossover, Jack Attack uses the same jack-like game pieces.  Robots must stack the game elements into goals of various heights. The taller they stack, the more points they achieve.  There are both autonomous and tele-operated portions to this game, encouraging not only a knowledge of driver skill, but also of programming.  Students began work on their robots!

AFTERNOON ADVANCED SESSION

The first day of camp’s afternoon session began with an ice breaker and quick introductions, and the week’s game, Robot to the Rescue, was introduced.  Unlike the majority of Camp Eureka games, Robot to the Rescue, requires each robot to collect their supplies, save survivors, and dispose of toxic wastes, completing each obstacle without using a controller.  This requires team to not only build a robot that can hold supplies, survivors, and pick up toxic waste, but also create completely autonomous programs for it.  Students are allowed to change the placement of their robot while it is in the safe zone, and extra points are given to robots that can complete the course in just one program.  This session allowed more experienced robot builders and programmers to put their abilities to the test and challenge themselves.  Today, the students began the first segment of their endeavor to create a successful robot, building it.  We look forward to the rest of the week!

Day 2 (July 11, 2017)

MORNING GENERAL SESSION

Camp continues, with students continuing work on their robots. By snack time, nearly every group had finished building their robot and many were beginning to program it.  Typically, campers build tank drives, as instructed in the robot build manual.  However, two groups with more experienced campers decided to try something different for this game, building X-drives.  With this, they can greatly increase their speed, but programming it is significantly more difficult.  By the end of the day, several groups were testing out their robots on the field, determining changes they might need to make.  The engineering process continues!

AFTERNOON ADVANCED SESSION

Students continued work on their robots this afternoon and many began work on their programs.  Different groups are taking a variety of approaches on programming.  Most groups are focused on getting from Start to Safe Zone 1 by making the robot go forward a certain distance, turning, etc… until they reach the safe zone.  Others are taking different approaches, using gyroscopes or making their way around the obstacle using the bumper switch.  Even other groups are taking an entirely different approach, programming getting from Safe Zone 4 to the end via line tracking.  This is the hardest programming challenge of the game.  In this game, building a robot is just the beginning.  The real challenge is programming.

Day 3 (July 12, 2017)

MORNING GENERAL SESSION

We are now halfway through camp!  At this point, the final groups have finished building their robots and all the students are testing their robots’ abilities on the field. Driver skill is vital to winning this game, since scoring hex-balls on the highest level is nearly impossible without extensive practice.  However, other groups have concluded that major changes need to be made to their design and are now changing their lift mechanisms, claws, and drivetrains. By the end of the day, everyone is at a different stage in their robot building- from editing their tele-op program to making an autonomous.  We look forward to another exciting day of robots tomorrow!

AFTERNOON ADVANCED SESSION

This afternoon, the challenging programming continued.  Much of the programming challenges in this game require giving the robots a lot of similar and repetitive instructions.  However, the programming can get frustrating, since building the program entails a lot of trial and error.  The students were amazing, persevering no matter what obstacles they encountered. Since many groups hadn’t built the lift and claw mechanism for handling the toxic waste, several groups started construction on that as they moved from safe zone to safe zone.

Day 4 (July 13, 2017)

MORNING GENERAL SESSION

The final full day of working began.  Today, creating an autonomous is the main focus for most groups.  Although autonomous is only a small portion of the game, robots can earn points by winning it, moving, and major points by scoring.  Just one hex-ball scored in the top goal can earn an alliance 60 points- twice as much as during the tele-operated period.  Teams made their program, lined up their robots, and tested their autonomous, making minor changes and returning several times.  By snack time, some robots had their autonomous set, and practice matches began.  Practice matches are an excellent way for students to observe how their robot will actually perform during a game, gives them practice on driver skill and reminds them of the rules. After several practice matches, students returned their robots back to the table, prepared to make some changes.

AFTERNOON ADVANCED SESSION

Students are focusing now more than ever before, as time is beginning to run low.  By now, several robots are able to complete the course in full, from start to end. However, they still face more challenges. The champion of Robot to the Rescue has to not only complete the course, but do so as fast as possible.  But students must choose whether they want to focus on making their robot faster, picking up more toxic waste, or complete the course in a single program.  A slower robot that picks up additional toxic waste and uses just one program could beat a faster robot, depending on the time difference.

Day 5 (July 14, 2017)

MORNING GENERAL SESSION

Today is the last day of Camp Eureka! After two short hours of fixing and practicing, the competition began.  The ten teams played through the qualification matches, and as the games passed, the highest score kept increasing!  Overall, the highest score was 175, made by the alliance of Police Bot and E.J.R., two of the four teams that progressed to the finals. After a short lunch break, the finals began, and the alliance of E.J.R. and Tiny Titans claimed their victory! Finally, we held an awards ceremony and took pictures with robots. This was an awesome camp; we hope to see the students return for fall camp!

AFTERNOON ADVANCED SESSION

With just a few hours of building and programming time left, students finished the final portions of their programming, and the official runs of the course began.  It was fascinating to see the differences between each students’ program, the techniques they used to complete the course and the directions they took to get from one safe zone to the next.  Advanced programming can be very challenging, but it is highly rewarding once you see how the robot performs, and enjoyable as long as you’re patient!