Essentially, you have one month to Design, Manufacture, and Program a robot to execute the following tasks:
- Navigate a variable playing field
- Find and sort colored balls
- Put some in the goal and some on the opponents field
- Try to get more points than your opponent in 5 minute rounds
Granted, that was my part of the solution. As lead mechanical engineer in our team of 5, it was my job to lead physical design ideation, CAD our results and manufacture the design. A major factor in all aspects of our design had to be the time span, as all aspects of the robot had to be finished by competition time. To account for this, one of my key design elements became modularity.
The code has to start with low level motion, and to test that we needed a mobile base. So, the first elements we settled on and CADed were the base chassis, module support structure and motor mounts. Our system became modeled after server racks, where thin blades slide into a support structure and latch into place. The pillars on the chassis are that support structure.
The benefits of this modular system were two-fold:
- Blades could be designed in parallel with their control code. They were both ready for testing at the same time.
- Blades were easy to remove for repair or modification. This was a tidbit we gleaned from previous competitions, where repairs could easily break more than they fixed.