High School Robotics Students Are Pumped! College Kids, Not So Much

DSC_0132Rob.jpgEarly Sunday morning at the annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) at Oakland (MI) University. Exhausted college robotics teams are slowly staggering into the main event tent after several days of travel, coding, tweeking, repairing, testing and head scratching. Anything but sleeping.
Meanwhile, about a dozen high school FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams are in the next arena where the playing field is set up, music is pumping, supporters are excited, competitors are cheering, and everyone is smiling. Not so much in the collegiate arena.
You may recall that the Miner Robotics Team planned a new machine, Aluminator 2.0, a four-wheel-drive machine for the ’10 competition, one that would handle the physical course with ease. Well, that didn’t happen. 2.0’s platform wasn’t quite ready this year, and rather than head to the Detroit suburbs with an untested machine, they opted to concentrate on the original Aluminator’s brain, S&T’s weak point for some years now.
This is the year that the RoboMiners hope to finally break past the autonomous course qualifying mark. Their three previous attempts always ran into trouble. Coding problems, wheel encoders going haywire, bad connections, you name it, but this year they’ve made remarkable progress. A simpler mantra of “sense, think, act” is the 2010 focus, and combined with LOTS of early testing means S&T should do well. Team leader James Anderson says “we plan to qualify by noon today, and after that we’ll refine our GPS system for the navigation challenge. That’s a separate event from the autonomous course tomorrow, with smaller prize money, but it’s still important.”
We’ll be reporting from Oakland University through tomorrow, and we’ll also be slipping in some reports on what Solar Miner VII is doing. Their big races start just 10 days from now!