‘Lunacy’ is a Slick Challenge for FIRST Robotics Teams

There is at least one thing that every participant of the 2009 FIRST Robotics Competition is trying to find: traction.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) launched its 18th season Jan. 3 with a kickoff of this year’s robotics game challenge called “Lunacy.”
Teams were shown the game field and given a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system and a mix of automation components – but no instructions.
Working with mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge.
Lunacy is played on a 54’x27’ low-friction field. Robots are equipped with slippery wheels and payload trailers. Lunacy game pieces are “Orbit Balls” designated as Moon Rocks, Empty Cells, or Super Cells. Two three-team robot alliances collect and score Orbit Balls in trailers attached to the opposing teams’ robots. Human players are positioned around the perimeter of the arena and can score from their stations. Robots are autonomous during the first 15 seconds of play and teleoperated for the remaining two minutes.
“The difference this year is you have to use extra slick wheels and the ground is extra slick,” said Roy Dayan, vice president of robotic design on the Tulsa Engineering Academy at Memorial High School team. “It’s kind of like the teams in the north are lucky because they have all this practice driving on ice. I feel bad for the Mexico teams – they are going to be at a disadvantage.”
“Collisions are to be expected,” added Victoria Stiles, vice president of marketing for the Memorial team.
Kyle Lawler, student team leader of the Tulsa Technology Center Riverside Airport team, agreed that trying to find friction on the field would be the greatest challenge.
“We have a purchase order on the floor materials,” he said.
TTC Riverside team mentor Phyllis White said the team members’ home court gives them some options for driving practice that they plan to share with other regional teams in a scrimmage Feb. 14.
“We probably won’t get enough (FRP flooring) to get a whole playing field because it is $30 a sheet,” she said. “But out in the hangar we have some nice slick concrete floors. We are going to simulate that and do some comparisons.”
The TTC Riverside team is also looking for input from team mentor Mike Powers, an engineer with Willbros Engineers, Inc., on creating code “to use some feedback loops and try to do some traction control or anti-skid,” White said.
She said the team’s plan is to keep it simple, concentrate on building a defensive robot and count on the human player for scoring.
“We learned last year not to try to take on more than we can accomplish in the six weeks. We are planning on defensive only, not looking to score,” she said. “It looks like in the game this year the human player is going to be very important.”
“It’s not all about winning. It’s not all about just making a robot,” she said. “There are some good lesson learned things that we don’t want to repeat.”
“Don’t be overweight,” added Lawler. ?′
— Stephen Hillman

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