Robotics is an emerging field of technology in the 21st century that's only getting more advanced as time goes on. The best way for engineers to test their skills and experience is through a bit of skill testing and preparing for a robotics competition. When people think of robotics competitions, they probably think of the hit show Battlebots. Creating robotic death machines and pitting them against each other is one way for robotics engineers to flex their skills. However, robotics competitions can encompass any theme or goal. Preparation is key to competing in a robotics competition. Here are a few tips to get started.
Of course, the first step in preparations is finding a robotics competition. There are different types of competition, ranging from junior robotics to professional. Finding the right one depends on your age, level of learning and if they have any unique criteria.
Specifications for competitions are drafted to ensure the right people participate in a balanced, fair and fun contest. Those participating should look at them carefully to understand the competition's goal.
Most robotics competitions ask contestants to form teams. This is why building a team that collaborates well and focuses its efforts is essential to preparing for a robotics competition.
Consider what role each team member needs to play and who has the unique experiences and specialties to fill that role. Every member should bring something different to the team.
The Owensboro Innovation Academy Robotics Team created "Hendrick," named after their sponsor, the Hendrick Screen Company. By dividing their specializations into roles and meeting on a scheduled basis, they created a robot that placed third out of 30 in the competition.
Once the team has come together, convene with them to assess what kind of robot they’ll build for the competition. The robot should conform to the competition's specifications yet still be unique enough to stand out and impress the judges.
Competitors must do extensive research and plan out every aspect of the robot to ensure maximum efficiency. What kind of hardware and software would it need? What level of computations does it need to do? Looking at past entries — if available — might yield some ideas on the standard for the competition.
After looking at the competition rules, getting a team together and deciding what kind of robot to build, now is the time to get into the planning phase. Determine what each team member should be responsible for, schedule team meetings and plan the goals for each meet day. Remember, there is a limited time before the competition starts — use it wisely.
Researching the latest robotic trends and practicing new methods are crucial in preparing for a robotics competition. Competitors should schedule regular testing sessions and practice on their own time whenever possible.
Many tools are available to practice the latest robotics trends — both virtual and physical. In addition, remember to document every progress milestone the team achieves. This is especially important if the competition requires a presentation in addition to the functioning robot. Presentations should focus on showing the team's progress.
If competitors need a sponsor, they must plan how to obtain their resources. Securing funds is essential to your participation. Money can decide how competitors will participate and whether they can compete.
Therefore, competitors should begin plans to obtain a sponsor immediately by asking their schools if they have any ideas or potential contacts. The team should also do their research and get in touch with any companies or organizations that would be willing to become sponsors.
If necessary, the team should plan fundraising events to obtain more capital for resources. These fundraisers can in collaboration with the sponsor to raise funds and publicity. When planning a fundraiser, remember that visibility and clarity about your goals are vital to winning over an audience.
After all the preparations are ready and you've secured a sponsor or another way to raise funds, competitors can finally prepare for a robotics competition by building their robots. The time and resources it takes to complete a competition robot will vary greatly depending on its complexity. Planning out the design phase will be unique to each team, but most people generally follow these guidelines. With thousands of parts to choose from, it’s important to start by mapping out your design.
This is the prototype phase, where teams will plan and refine critical features of the robot. These are the attributes that accomplish the primary goal of the competition and make the robot unique. Remember not to spend too much time with prototypes — focus only on the essential functions.
Next, the team must test the prototype. Perform thorough run-throughs on prototypes and document every aspect of them. Make notes of what features passed and failed, as well as the cause. This is especially important for a presentation to supplement the teams' entry.
After reviewing the notes on the first test, refine the prototype’s design. This includes fixing or removing any failed components, and making essential functions more efficient.
One of the main things most robotics competitions judge is how fast competitor robots can perform tasks. Finding ways to improve speed can be essential to impressing the judges and gaining a high score.
After refining the prototype, this should be one of the last testing phases. Once all of the core features have been refined, evaluate if there are any improvements the team can still make. Test the prototype in different simulations to see how it functions and perform any necessary tweaks based on that data.
Prepping to participate in a robotics competition can be daunting, with many things to think about and plan for. However, choosing the right teammates and making a plan with them will go a long way to success.