Preparing for a robotics competition
Whether school child or adult, pretty much everyone has a soft spot for robotics; the older generation perhaps because of seminal shows from the 60s and 70s, which explored just how our future could shape up to be some 50 years down the line. While many of these shows were way off, some got it right.
Today we have automated vacuum cleaners that can drive around until the whole house is clean. We have walking robots that resemble humans – at least in form and in an aesthetic sense, if not in full artificial intelligence (AI).
Robots of sorts are also being used for entertainment purposes, such as in toys for children or as machines of destruction, in TV shows like ‘Robot Wars’.
Crucially though, many robots are being designed as tools of education as well. Robotics challenges are present in a range of subjects from computer programming courses right through to advanced engineering ones, so it begs the question – just how do you prepare to enter a robotics competition?
Get the right team
Your team-mates could be your project’s biggest strength or greatest weakness. You’ll need a diverse team of people who can handle individual aspects of the robot’s function – maybe an AI programmer, movement expert, or an electronics whizz, for example.
No matter what your robot’s end goal is, you’ll also need a designer. They’ll be responsible for its look, which may - or may not – be a major part of your construction. One would assume in a cyborg-type project it is, whereas in a robotic war, it’s all about function. The choice of materials you choose is also a big factor, considering professional robotic components can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Know where to look for parts
Sourcing electronic parts for your construction is easy enough; there are plenty of online suppliers of transistors, capacitors, fuses, diodes, resistors, switches, micro controllers and so on that these shouldn’t be hard to find.
What might be more difficult is sourcing cheap base materials for your construction, like rubber, metal and the mechanical connective parts. You could of course try a scrap yard but you’ll need to have the resources available to you to cut these down to size, or otherwise re-purpose them.
Stick to the rules
Whatever you do at this point of you preparation/initial construction – stick to the rules. Be very clear whether the project brief enables you to assume control of the robot, or not, and to what extent. Does it have to move without assistance? Are you allowed to fix functional aspects on the go?
Check the rules about the design and material aspect too. Do you have to create a bespoke control system, or can you build on top of another pre-programmed operating system?
Finally, be clear about the goals of the project. Can you confidently tick all of the boxes, proving that you’ve followed the brief to the letter? After your initial investment and time, it would be a shame to slip up now.
Jack Robinson loves dealing with the intricacies of online electronic component distributors and he is also helping companies to reach out to their prospective customers.
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