Can robots inspire female students to take up a career in science?
You bet, say the organisers of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), an international high school robotics competition.
Held in April, the FIRST Championships bring hundreds of FRC teams together to play the game with and against each other.
With 98 tournaments held worldwide, this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition featured 2,720 teams and 68,000 high-school students.
Such competitions inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, say organisers.
Competitors take part in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills. The programs also help to inspire innovation, and build self-confidence, communication and leadership.
One of the teams representing Australia was ARTEMIS – an all-girl robotics team from Abbotsleigh Senior School in Sydney.
ARTEMIS has students from Years 7-11 competing at FRC. They also have a team representing the school at the FIRST LEGO League competition to be held later this year.
And Treotham Automation, a leading Australian supplier of robotics and automation equipment is supporting the cause.
Treotham provided four lengths of 1.2m drylin W slides and carriages to help the ARTEMIS team in its mission to find a winning formula. Using AutoCAD Fusion 360, the girls completed a nested elevator design with the slides that lifts the intake mechanism holding the cube to well over 2m.
A geared 300W winch using 3mm cable lifts the elevator through a series of pulleys to the top position.
Though the intake mechanism and cube were a considerable overhanging weight on the slides, with a little help from Treotham they we were able to run the lift smoothly, using gravity to return it to the bottom.
Treotham also provided four metres of energy chain so that we could manage the wires and pneumatic lines we needed for our intake as it moved to its full height and back.
Putting robots through their paces
This year’s FRC game Power Up was based around robots delivering cubes to different areas on the field to score points.
The vault is an area on the end of each field where cubes are delivered to earn points and gain powerups, the switch is a short seesaw like contraption where points are given to the team who has it tilted in their favour, and the scale is similar to the switch, but much taller.
The ARTEMIS team robot features a pneumatic controlled gripper intake with compliant wheels. The two-stage elevator can lift the cubes to well over 2m. This makes it easier for the robot to place cubes into the vault and onto the switch.
“To build our two-stage elevator, initially we only had access to linear slides that were half the height we needed, and half were the igus drylin N type slides, which are not as strong as the larger drylin W slides,” the girls said.
But with Treotham’s help, the lift and igus drylin W linear slides worked flawlessly during the competition. The robot was able to place the cubes onto the scale, achieving the team’s biggest goal for the season.
Second high-speed robot
For the upcoming off-season competition this month, the ARTIMUS team is planning to mount a hook and additional winch to the lift so the robot can be lifted off the ground during the endgame. That will give them a strong chance to gain more points.
“We are confident that the drylin W slides will be strong enough to pull the robot up,” the girls said.
“Our software team is also hard at work to improve our autonomous code to use the gyro and encoders we have installed.”
The Year 11 member of the team are also working on building a second, high speed robot called Artemoose for the event.
“We very much appreciate the generosity of Treotham that enabled us to build our most successful and reliable robot to date,” the team said.
“The igus drylin W slides were excellent to work with and ran flawlessly during the competition.”
The girls will now compete in the FIRST LEGO regional tournaments to be held in early to mid-November. State competitions are planned for late November, with a national championship to be held at Macquarie University on December 8-9.