As mentioned previously, our local 4-H Robotics teams headed by our fantastic 4-H agent, Ryan Farley, (see Figure 1) wrapped up a very successful year on April 16th at the District 4 Lego Robotics Competition. One of our teams, called the Kings (see Figure 2), finished as the Overall Runner-Up out of 35 beginner teams. All three teams (Aces, Kings, and Jokers (see Figure 3 and Figure 4)) finished in the top five in the Lego Sumobot Challenge, the Aces team came in second in the line follower challenge (see Figure 5), and the Jokers team came in fourth in the “tree” challenge (where they had to push the trees off the sumo ring in the shortest amount of time.
The crowd was comprised of parents, 4-H members, 4-H agents, judges, coaches, friends, and families (see Figure 6). The most exciting challenge of the day was the Sumobot challenge where each team has designed and programmed its robot to push the competitor robot out of the sumo ring (see Figure 7) This is where the crowd really got into it with whistling, clapping, and “you’ll do better next time” comments. The most difficult of the four challenges was the wall follower maze challenge (see Figure 8). Very few teams made it through the maze and most ended up exceeding the maximum amount of time.
A grand time was had by all – it was a long day, but a successful day at that. Our season ran from January until the final culminating event at the District 4 championships in the middle of April. Most teams started in October 2015 and seemed to have a head start, but this group of 4-H members applied themselves quickly to the tasks at hand and made it a priority to meet with their teams once a week for 6 weeks and for the last 5 weeks we met twice (even with Spring Break going on).
The great thing about this group of team members is that they shared their ideas on programming freely which allowed each team to have a program for each of the four challenges. This made each team a participant in each event. One mother was able to get a printout of the difficult line follower challenge which allowed each team to practice multiple times before entering the event. This gave each team confidence going to the event.
This was the first year that we used Lego Mindstorms EV3 (Evolution 3) robot kits with the new LabView software. The assembly did not take much time at all, but the programming required new thought processing with the ability to figure out all of the programming palettes. It took a few weeks understanding how to move around the software to feel comfortable with it. A few years ago, our teams used the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robot kits that had a down level version of the LabView software. This latest version is by far the best programming environment we have ever had.
When most people think of 4-H, they think of agriculture so when they heard that we were going to re-start a Robotics Club they were confused. 4-H is moving on, looking to becoming a part of all students lives, whether in Agriculture or even in robotics. Who knows? Maybe 4-H will consider robotic drones someday so farmers can see the results of fertilizers they have used.
Within two weeks of each other, a couple of authors penned articles related to robotics becoming a sanctioned high school sport and a second article dedicated to how Ohio is using the VEX Robotics competition to increase interest in STEM and future jobs. In the second article, Ritch Ramey recounts the growth of the number of high school, middle school, and elementary school VEX teams in Ohio. This demonstrates the interest in robotics especially when the teams winning the Ohio State Championships are able to participate in the World Championships that will be held in April 2016 in Louisville, KY. Past locations for the World Tournament have been Orlando, FL and Anaheim, CA.
The first article, which was of great interest to me due to its long-range effect on sports, was how Texas, Connecticut, and Minnesota are championing initiatives to allow robotics teams to be recognized as “sports” teams in these states. There are some benefits that would be effected such as support from school executives, incentives for teacher-mentors, and the ability to receive sports letters for participating. Robotics teams, like sports teams, do exhibit qualities such as teamwork, solving problems, division of labor, and competitive spirit.
Ramey ends his article with a picture and a phrase, “The Workforce of the Future!” I’d say the future is now.
Quote for the Day: “Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Writer