Emmett STEM team takes robots on the road

Emmett Middle School Team #724 brought home a second place trophy in the Spirit Division of the Global Conference for Educational Robotics in Norman, Oklahoma in July. Left to right: Coach Christina Hooper, Dane Madsen, Fox Ramos and Easton White.

Thanks to our sponsors, the Idaho STEM Action Center, Cascade Fencing, and the Rotary Club of Emmett, two teams from Emmett Middle School were able to attend and compete at the Global Conference for Educational Robotics (GCER) in Norman, Oklahoma in July.

Emmett Middle School Team #724 was represented by Dane Madsen, Fox Ramos, and Easton White and coached by Mrs. Christina Hopper. Emmett Middle School Team #734 was represented by Deni Allen, Caleb Weers, and Hayden Wingett and coached by Mrs. Kim Hyde.

This was the first time these teams attended the conference to compete in the International Botball competition. In addition to competing, students attended workshops to improve their understanding of programming and building their robots and met other students from around the world. Previously, EMS students attended this conference with the challenge-based Junior Botball program.

Participation at this year’s conference moved into the competitive program, allowing students to use previously learned skills to write programs for two robots that ran simultaneously to complete tasks in order to earn points on a game board. Student teams were also required to create documentation of their team structure, game strategy, and robot builds that contributed to their overall points.

Representatives from each team presented this information to a small panel of judges on the first day of the conference. Teams were placed into one of four different divisions for competition: Spirit, Opportunity, Sojourner, and Curiosity. Team placement in the division was determined by their performance in the seeding rounds where teams ran their programs on their robots to earn as many points as they could during a 2-minute run. All points earned from the seeding rounds were added together at the end of seeding to determine division placement.

At the end of the seeding rounds, Emmett #724 was seeded first in the Spirit Division, and Emmett #734 was seeded eleventh in the same division. Double Elimination rounds began at the end of the fourth day of the conference. By this point, teams were running their programs against other teams and winners were declared at the end of each match. Teams continued to compete against other teams in their division until they were eliminated. Team #734 was eliminated in their 3rd match on the final day of the conference. Team #724 finished the competition in 2nd place in the Spirit Division.

In between rounds, students attended workshops that were presented by other students. In the first workshop, we heard about how one team uses an accelerometer to measure distances on their robot and how this is helpful when writing your programs for competition. We also learned some tips and tricks to get the most use from the CreateBot, and about mirroring workspace on our Wallaby controller.

Other topics presented during these workshops included time management tips for teams, a comparison between VEX Robotics and Botball, Swarm Robotics, and using Botball as a year-long curriculum in the classroom. While these topics were important and engaging, the most anticipated workshop we attended was the “What’s New at KIPR” workshop; this is where we learned about the new things coming to Botball and GCER. KIPR’s announcement about an Asian Conference would be held next year was met with much applause. The announcement of a new, Raspberry-Pi based controller, however, was met with overwhelming applause. We are excited to see what new things we’ll be able to do with the new Wombat controller!

Students in Tech Club learn to program a small robot (DemoBot) using C programming to run autonomously throughout the year. In January, kids in the club made the decision to form student led teams and join the competitive league with Botball. This move was made possible with grants from NASA and the Idaho STEM Action Center that allowed for the purchase of the robot kits and training.

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Students attended a weekend training workshop in February and were introduced to the CreateBot, an iRobot based robot that is programmed using a Wallaby controller that is used on the game board that works with the DemoBot.

Teams were able to get a practice game board built with the donation of FRP board by Mountain West Building Supply. Mr. Bill White from Valley Pump not only donated the PVC pipe we needed, but came out and helped students learn how to read a Bill of Materials as they put together the PVC pieces. Students finished building the board together, reading the prints that provided instructions for creating the “silver highway,” city buildings, medical centers, and power grids.

During regional competition season, each team was required to submit documentation. In the first documentation requirement, teams had to identify the structure of their team, including jobs for each team member. They needed to put in writing how they would handle conflict — with team members, schedules, familial obligations, etc. In addition, they had to create 3 SMART goals (with due dates) for each robot and for their game strategy. This helped them keep track of what needed to be done and when it should be finished.

In the second documentation period, students had to create mechanical videos for their robots. The video had to include a Bill of Materials for each of their robots, listing all parts that were being used in their robots. Students had to include video of their robots performing a task and include the analysation of each robot design. In the final documentation period, students reflected on their season. The reflection had to include what went well for their team, and what they would do differently and how. This was also an opportunity to give teams that were considering making the jump to Botball Competitive some advice or tips to help make their transition smoother.

To qualify for GCER this year, both teams competed in the first Idaho Regional Botball Competition on April 27th at Galileo STEM Academy in Eagle. The Idaho Regional competition is similar to the Global competition on a much smaller scale.

At the Idaho competition, Emmett #734 placed 2nd overall and was a recipient of the “Judges’ Choice” award. This team fought hard to do well in this competition. They had to build a new robot from scratch the week before competition when their original design wasn’t working, completely changing their game plan. No matter what obstacles were thrown at them, this team never gave up and exhibited great team work!

In the same competition, Emmett #724 placed 3rd overall and got the “Spirit of Botball” award. Leading up to the competition and at the event, this team fought mechanical issues with motors, sensors, and ultimately discovering that they had a bad controller that was causing the issues. This team came together to overcome obstacles and had a strong finish!

This school year, the Botball program is being offered as part of the Technology electives at Emmett Middle School.

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