BEST Robotics 2015

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RMM will be working with the Woodlawn High School BEST Robotics team for the 2015 competition. This page contains links, notes and a working reference for our mentors and other adults supervising student use of the Red Mountain Maker space.


Contest Rules

Best Robotics Generic Game rules and other resources

Scope for RMM volunteers (and other adults)

  • Robot design coach - coordinate the overall robot design and competition strategy
    • Robot design mentor - base and locomotion/movement
    • Robot design mentor - game objective robot function
    • Robot design mentor - electronics and controls
  • BEST Award coach - coordinate the BEST Award
    • Marketing presentation
    • Team Exhibit and interviews
    • Spirit & sportsmanship and public relations
  • Project Notebook coach - coordinate the notebook
  • Rules and compliance expert

Adult Volunteer Skills (from the BEST robotics competition guide)

When assembling a group of adult volunteers, the skills needed are fairly self-evident from the descriptions above. However, this list of desired skills will provide more specific information.
Mechanical Design or Mechanical Engineering – A good understanding of mechanical fundamentals is important in the base, locomotion, manipulation, and handling designs. At this point in the students' education and practical experience, they can develop ideas on how to achieve a particular function and have a good idea of what components can be used. However, they need help seeing how to apply those components to carry out that function.
Electronic Design or Electrical Engineering – While not overly complicated, the electronic components and electronic controls are not intuitively obvious. A good understanding of these fundamentals is necessary to teach the students how to apply the components and how to set up and program the controls.
Technical Writing – The project notebook is an important part of the program. No one student can put it all together. Technical writing is different from the writing most students are exposed to in language arts courses. A good technical writer can teach the students these differences and can coordinate several students writing different sections, so the entire notebook is cohesive.
Public Speaking and Business Presentations – The marketing presentation is a business presentation. As with technical writing, it is different from the public speaking the students may be learning in school. Someone experienced in making business presentations can help the students organize and coordinate a successful presentation.
Public relations – There are several occasions in which the students need to use public relations skills. They will seek out sponsorships for their team and conduct fundraising activities. They will present themselves during promotional opportunities at fairs, schools, conferences, and other various types of group meetings. They will also be interviewed by judges during the team exhibit competition. In every situation, they are "selling" BEST and their team. While some students may be naturals at these activities, many will need to be taught and coached.
Web page – Many students will already have this skill, but their activities will need oversight. See award description for a starting point for their team's site.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) – Some students will already have this skill, but their activities will need oversight.
Creativity and organization – Do not limit the team to technical people only. Many of the activities will require artistic and creative leadership as well as good organizational skills. Team exhibit, web page, t-shirt, costume, and spirit and sportsmanship activities are just a few of the areas requiring these skills.

The adult leader's job is to:

  • Teach, not criticize – there is a difference.
  • Help students develop ideas, not tell them how to design or build the robot.

Notes for RMM regarding meeting schedule, location, calendar and safety

Meeting schedule

  • The meeting site and the work location do not have to be in the same place, but having them together allows more flexibility for the team schedule.
  • The amount of time a team puts into the program will vary based on the team's experience and the number of students and adult leaders.
  • Teams typically will meet from two to four times on weekdays and on Saturdays for a total of five to twenty hours per week.
  • Teams typically will schedule times the entire team needs to be together, so there can be team discussions and decisions and small groups can interact.
  • Small groups can meet separately as well to focus on their tasks.

Meeting site

  • Plenty of tables and chairs
  • Capable of handling separate small group discussions without disturbing each other.
  • Capable of allowing the entire group to participate in entire team meetings
  • Plenty of pads of large poster size paper available for brainstorming
  • Each team member should have a bound notebook of blank pages for personal ideas, sketches, notes and other documentation
  • Large white board, chalk board or the ability to hang the large poster size paper for note taking and sketching during the entire team meetings.
  • Snacks and drinks are always good to have (parent supporters may help with this)

Work location and equipment (objective - completion of Shape Lab!!!!)

  • A place to display all the parts at one time; this is just like shopping at Home Depot or Lowes and trying to get an idea of how to do something
  • Plenty of work tables and chairs for developing small assemblies and prototypes
  • Hand tools: hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, sockets, files, etc.
  • Metal working tools: snips, hammers and anvils, bending tools, and deburring tools
  • Cutting tools: wood saw, hack saw, PVC pipe cutter, and box cutters/utility knives
  • Hand power equipment: circular saw, jig saw, and drill with wood and metal cutting bits, disc grinder
  • Power equipment: table saw, band saw with wood and metal cutting blades, miter saw, grinding wheel
  • Really nice to have but not necessary: Lathe and Mill

Materials

The students will consume many of the materials provided by War Eagle BEST as they develop prototypes and try out ideas. Most of these materials can be found in Home Depot and Lowes. A list of allowable consumable parts is provided in your War Eagle BEST Kick-off packet. Be sure to keep the materials replenished, so the students are not discouraged from trying their ideas. In addition to the allowed materials, keep materials on hand that facilitate trying out ideas and prototyping such as cardboard and coat hangers.

Calendar

The recommendations here are based on the assumption that most teams rarely go to competition with their first design. Be sure to allow time for testing, failures and redesigns. When it looks perfect on paper, it stands about a 50% chance of succeeding when built.

  • Learn the parts - first meeting
  • Brainstorming and design concept - week 1
  • Build & test first prototype - weeks 2 & 3 - team will need access to RMM workshop from September 14th forward.
    • Establish design envelopes
    • build prototypes & assemble first robot
    • test design & decide on changes
    • disassemble to redesign
  • Second prototype - week 4
  • Strategy, practice & Mall Day - week 4
  • Final design changes, strategy & practice - weeks 5 & 6

Safety

Safety is critical to the success of a BEST Robotics team. Most students and some adult volunteers do not understand the inherent dangers and risks associated with the tools and equipment being used to construct a robot. While these guidelines are not comprehensive, they are a good starting point for ensuring safety for your team.

  • Verify (DO NOT ASSUME) adult volunteers are qualified and competent to use tools and equipment safely; do not be concerned about offending someone by asking.
  • Always wear safety glasses - students and volunteers
  • Students may use tools and equipment if properly supervised
  • Hand tools can be as hazardous as power tools
  • Be especially careful with box cutters or utility knives
  • Have all students sign and submit a safety contract

Links

Blazer BEST Robotics competition information page
Competition resource site

Programming and software tools

Mathworks simulink
Easy C
RobotC - programming software
Solidworks - CAD software - available to students only

Mentoring notes for those who haven't mentored before

Mentoring students - tips and reminders for success

Outstanding questions

Roles and responsibilities of teachers and RMM mentors/volunteers
Student and parent acceptance of liability for use of space
We now have a deadline for having the Circuits and Shape Lab "work ready" for inexperienced users.
Student software and file compatibility from MS Windows (their base system) to Linux.
Time required (after school) and detailing when volunteers are available to open the space for student use.