RoboCup Jr. Nationals

Several months ago I approached my daughter’s primary school with 12Blocks and several TBot’s to inquire if they were interested in fielding several RoboCup Jr teams.  Although the school had never worked with robots before, the deputy principal was enthusiastic and quickly rounded up a dozen excited kids.  6 weeks before the Regional competition I introduced  the 3 teams to Propeller-powered TBot’s and the 12Blocks programming language.  The kids loved programming with blocks and quickly wrote impressive programs that excercised all parts of the robot- sound activation, complex dance moves, synchronizing moves to music, flashing rgb led’s and driving servos- all at the same time using multiple cogs.  We did well at Regionals- with two teams qualifying for Nationals- to be held in Christchurch, our home town.  Sadly, the 7.1 earthquake hit the same day as the event- causing it to be moved to Wellington.
Flights to Wellington were quite a bit more expensive than normal due to a Bon Jovi concert- but we managed to raise more than $3000 by busking with robots in front of shopping malls, organizing a dress-like-a-robot day at school, holding a raffle, and putting on a movie fundraiser.  The kids and TBot’s made it into several local newspapers.
This Sunday I escorted 7 wonderful kids and 3 TBot’s to Wellington.  Kids from all over New Zealand had made their way to the competition- most of them quite a bit older and more experienced than our two teams.  12Blocks allowed our 6, 7 and 8 year olds to compete at a similar level to what teenagers were doing.  Our dance robots performed exactly as they were meant to- putting on an exciting display of a Moa being hunted by a Moa Hunter- with flashing LED’s and wings and spears activated by servos. After seeing the other entries we thought we had a good chance at winning the competition- but being a subjective event- it was up to the judges to decide.  In the end we didn’t win, losing to an exciting James Bont them, a Karate robot, and two trains doing the Locomotion.  Nevertheless, the dance team learned a lot from the competition and will be back stronger next year.
Our rescue team had a roller coaster day.  At first glance we were excited to see that regulation tiles were set up in good lighting- meaning our robot should perform well.  However, when the kids tried out the robot it kept turning in place, instead of solving the maze.  We quickly diagnosed that one of the sensors we had added to the robot platform had been damaged in the flight up.  Thanks to the helpful event organizers we managed to find a make-shift soldering iron to make temporary repairs to the damage.  In the first heat the robot successfully navigated through the maze and pushed the can out- well all but a millimeter of the can so we didn’t get full points.  The robot’s performance declined after the first run- and we were forced to withdraw after the third heat when the damaged sensor was beyond repair.  Although the rescue team was disappointed, they realized that the rescue event at the national level was very competitive- we’ll need to work hard for next year.
All in all we had a great day and the kids (and parents) had a wonderful, very educational time.

Several months ago I approached my daughter’s primary school with 12Blocks and several TBot’s to inquire if they were interested in fielding several RoboCup Jr teams.  Although the school had never worked with robots before, the deputy principal was enthusiastic and quickly rounded up a dozen excited kids.  6 weeks before the Regional competition I introduced  the 3 teams to Propeller-powered TBot’s and the 12Blocks programming language.  The kids loved programming with blocks and quickly wrote impressive programs that excercised all parts of the robot- sound activation, complex dance moves, synchronizing moves to music, flashing rgb led’s and driving servos- all at the same time using multiple cogs.  We did well at Regionals- with two teams qualifying for Nationals- to be held in Christchurch, our home town.  Sadly, the 7.1 earthquake hit the same day as the event- causing it to be moved to Wellington.  Flights to Wellington were quite a bit more expensive than normal due to a Bon Jovi concert- but we managed to raise more than $3000 by busking with robots in front of shopping malls, organizing a dress-like-a-robot day at school, holding a raffle, and putting on a movie fundraiser.  The kids and TBot’s made it into several local newspapers.  This Sunday I escorted 7 wonderful kids and 3 TBot’s to Wellington.  Kids from all over New Zealand had made their way to the competition- most of them quite a bit older and more experienced than our two teams.  12Blocks allowed our 6, 7 and 8 year olds to compete at a similar level to what teenagers were doing.  Our dance robots performed exactly as they were meant to- putting on an exciting display of a Moa being hunted by a Moa Hunter- with flashing LED’s and wings and spears activated by servos. After seeing the other entries we thought we had a good chance at winning the competition- but being a subjective event- it was up to the judges to decide.  In the end we didn’t win, losing to an exciting James Bont them, a Karate robot, and two trains doing the Locomotion.  Nevertheless, the dance team learned a lot from the competition and will be back stronger next year.Our rescue team had a roller coaster day.  At first glance we were excited to see that regulation tiles were set up in good lighting- meaning our robot should perform well.  However, when the kids tried out the robot it kept turning in place, instead of solving the maze.  We quickly diagnosed that one of the sensors we had added to the robot platform had been damaged in the flight up.  Thanks to the helpful event organizers we managed to find a make-shift soldering iron to make temporary repairs to the damage.  In the first heat the robot successfully navigated through the maze and pushed the can out- well all but a millimeter of the can so we didn’t get full points.  The robot’s performance declined after the first run- and we were forced to withdraw after the third heat when the damaged sensor was beyond repair.  Although the rescue team was disappointed, they realized that the rescue event at the national level was very competitive- we’ll need to work hard for next year.All in all we had a great day and the kids (and parents) had a wonderful, very educational time.

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