TanenbaumCHAT's Inaugural Robotics Competition
Having been a part of the robotics club for the last few years, we were intrigued when we heard that TanenbaumCHAT would be hosting its first middle school robotics competition. However, this was pretty much all the information we got, and it was up to us, as heads of the robotics team, to create it from scratch. We were very excited about this as we saw the opportunity to transmit our passion for robotics and engineering.
With the guidance of David Obadun and Jonathan Lam, we designed the challenge: “A Mission on Mars”. We then sent a series of tutorial videos to the various middle schools competing where we explained and taught many different skills they would need to use in order to build a successful robot on the day of the competition (the challenge would only be revealed to them then), like how to use different sensors and how to use the blocks of code to get their bot to run autonomously.
Then, we rolled up our sleeves and, working after school hours, got to building the three 8x8 foot long competition fields which each consisted of 4 different stages: Stage 1 - a line-following mission that involved macro and micro terrain. Stage 2 - a precision line-following mission that involved traversing the path without touching any of the obstacles. Stage 3 - a maze that the robot had to navigate autonomously using ultrasonic and touch sensors. Finally, Stage 4 - a transportation mission in which the robot must grab hold of an object, follow the path to the drop off zone, release the block, then continue to the final destination.
Finally, the day of the competition arrived and we were thrilled to see all the seventh and eighth graders walking in to the transformed gym, ready to find out what their challenge would be. Once we announced the “Mission to Mars” and its rules and regulations, teams got right to work. It was amazing to bear witness to the ingenuity and creativity of these students. Despite the high degree of difficulty in this challenge, students were able to problem solve and persevere; thus, displaying the true spirit of engineering. It was also quite funny when students would approach us for guidance, having recognized us from the tutorial videos that we had sent out.
At the end of the event, after winners were announced and additional awards for teamwork, effort, and creativity were handed out, everyone who was a part of the competition gathered in the middle of the gym for a video (taken by a drone) of everyone waving and saying, in unison, “I love robotics!”. A demonstration of the love and passion for engineering and robotics that was able to bring students from all different backgrounds and schools together in a friendly competitive display of learning for the sake of learning.
We would like to thank Mr. Rottmann and Mr. Epstein for acting as referees and Anita and Daniel Chai for helping fund the event. This was a competition that we will always remember and we can all be very proud of the role our school played in this fantastic event!