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August Post 2015

posted 19 Dec 2016, 17:31 by Shamik Patel   [ updated 19 Dec 2016, 23:36 ]

The Drop Bears August Update

By: Arthur Allshire, Ryan Paget and Brock O’Dwyer

The Drop Bears have accomplished much since our last post! We had three competitions and have built an offseason robot for a sponsor, as well as developing new skills in STEM, media and business areas.

First of all we had the Dropfest Video Festival. In groups of two, we had six weeks to film, produce and edit a video about a topic of our choosing related to the team or robotics. We had a variety of submissions, ranging from explaining how a quadcopter works, to a creating a music video about build season. These will all be up on our Youtube Channel shortly. The winning submission was Byron and Ava’s video about the team’s social media pages and how to get updates from them. With professional filmmaking skills and sharp editing this stood out from the rest. Good job guys!

We also teamed up to play the Simunomics business game, where players compete to grow a business from the ground up. There are multiple ways of doing this- you can be a manufacturer, a retailer, a farmer, or many different things or even a combination of all of them. This adds a level of complexity to the game that means all competitors will have to choose their options and use their initial investment of β 1 million (1 million βucks- the game’s currency) wisely if they are to succeed. The winners of the competition were James Wu and Arthur Allshire, who at the end of the 7 week period of the competition managed to accrue more than β 1.4 billion in assets- an increase of 140,000% on the original investment through their computer manufacture and retail business. They slowly built up their company with the profit they earned by retailing, they built factories, setting up a successful vertical chain to supply their shops.

Another exciting project we have been working on is the Rotacaster project. Omni-wheel maker Rotacaster asked us to make a robot that they could use to demonstrate their wheels at trade shows. It had to be small enough to fit in a suitcase and very easy for them to use and maintain, while being as inexpensive as possible. This meant that we couldn’t just use the same parts as on our competition robots, which can be very expensive and quite difficult to use, especially if they break down. This forced us to design a robot from the ground up, and the result is a sight to behold, as I am sure you will agree- we built probably the most professional looking robot that our team ever has. We decided to use a BeagleBone Black as the control board as it is inexpensive but provides the power and the ability to interface with motors that we needed for this project. This is not compatible with the FRC control system, and as such it meant that we had to write our own drivers to power everything from PWM (a type of encoding that lets us tell the motors how fast to go) to heading hold- a fun and educational experience.

Lately the team have been learning new skills from the Mentors to help during build season. The team spent three confusing yet thrilling Monday nights learning how to to use the amazing Arduino Leonardo boards. These tiny little computers, which have less power than a computer from the early 1990s, can be used in a surprising variety of robotic applications due to their large number of outputs and very accessible level of programmability. From counting marbles to powering miniature robots, they are a very exciting and empowering device to be able to program. One member of our team, Ryan Paget was not looking forward to spending time out of the workshop to learn how to code, yet even he enjoyed the three evenings learning this empowering new skill. With these skills, members of the team were able to use their Arduinos to power their Marble Madness counting contraptions (explained below).


Members had a half a night with mentor Peter Zecchin, learning how to build our very own electric motor. Using nothing but paper clips, copper wire and a magnet, with a battery for power, an army of mini Macgyvers was set loose upon the team, with the quiet whirring and the sound of sparks echoing about the room. Congratulations to Hayden Drake for being the first to get his motor going.

Most recently we had a mini-competition, Marble Madness. We were tasked with designing a device that had the ability to sort and count marbles using all of the skills we had learned over the past few weeks. the team was broken into groups of two, and we set about our tasks. We had a twenty dollar budget, a two week deadline, and a single Monday night in the workshop, all making for an excellent simulation of build season. By the end of the two weeks, four groups were ready to present. Shamik Patel had created a sorting and counting machine from two limit switches, an Arduino board, two credit cards and a pool noodle. not only was it effective, it was also one of the most efficient of the night, proving that anything can be done with some imagination and glue. Ryan Paget made a purely mechanical machine which sorted the marbles and counted by weight, using elastic bands which would stretch to pre calibrated lines. Brock O’Dwyer, Penny Player and Ava Henitze, whom created perhaps the most technical machine of the night, using limit switches and mechano pieces to sort and count. Finally, Arthur Allshire and Lewis Francis used the time honoured building material of Lego, to create yet another effective and colourful solution to the problem they were presented with.


Also, a final thanks to the efforts of various team members, the workshop has been cleaned out, and just in time for the recruitment evening which was held on August 10th, a now annual event where we invite potential new members to come and try the team out. The night was a great success, and with over 10 budding roboticists in attendance, we expect the team to grow. The night ran from 6:30, and included a presentation about the team from Dr. James Ward and various students, a tour of the ACFR and our workshop, the marble run challenge and a demonstration of the brilliant new Rotacaster robot (both mentioned above).

Stay tuned for our next update and thanks for reading!