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APRIL 2010 MEETING
of the Region 3 Student Hardware Competition
Green and Alfred Gonzalez
Racheal Toman and Tyler Kerr from VMI
The track was a 10 x 10 foot square of Astro-turf, ringed by two-by-fours on edge. The center four-foot square was also ringed by wooden 2x4's. This left a three-foot wide track with four ninety-degree turns. On three sides of the track there were obstacles: a height obstacle, a width obstacle, and a ramp. The faces of the ramp met at 30-degree angles.
The robots had to be powered by solar cells alone. Batteries were explicitly disallowed. There were four "basking circles" of light from 250-watt halogen work lights to power the vehicle. One was located at the starting line. Three others illuminated the three obstacles.
The teams were university undergrads from 48 schools within the IEEE Southeastern Region. The Virginia Mountain Section was represented by teams from VMI and Virginia Tech.
The VMI team decided to keep it simple. They used a mechanical arm to track the sidewall, and built much of their robot from Legos. This proved useful later, when mechanical modifications were needed at the competition. They decided early on to skip the 30-degree ramp, for power and traction reasons.
Tech took the opposite approach: the only way to win would be to tackle all the obstacles. This resulted in a much heavier vehicle with tracks, like a tank. Solar panels were hinged to allow raising them to pass the width obstacle.
Both teams performed well in practice runs at home. Early trials at the conference, before the competition, required some design changes.
VMI failed to start the first heat, because of a fried component. The two remaining heats were better, leaving them with a total of 2 points for all three runs.
Tech did not fair quite a well. As their leader said, "It was a relief to cross the starting line on the last run. At least we didn't go home with no points at all.
As so often is the case with these competitions, small differences between the practice tracks and the final competition track proved disastrous for many teams.
-Dave Geer 5/1/2010
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(Modified:10 March 2009)