From the 2nd to the 8th of July Cristina Koprinski, Gabriel Thien and Xavier Cooney represented Australia at RoboCup Internationals. The team placed 22nd, and we competed in the Rescue Line Division where the robot navigates a line course, avoids various obstacles and rescues victims from a spill. The most points were acquired in the spill zone, where the robot had to locate and lift up silver balls (victims) onto an evacuation platform. The size of the spill and number of victims of the spill are unknown, and the robot must achieve this task autonomously.
In addition to the competition, the team was able to collaborate with teams from other countries. During the last two days of the competition, we took part in the Super Team Challenge, where we had to re-program and re-build our robot to accomplish a completely new task. Along with the Slovakian and Slovenian teams, we were tasked with building two robots such that one transports victims into a safe zone, and the other evacuates these victims. From this experience, we were able to learn new building and programming techniques from the International community, which we found extremely beneficial in developing our skills.
The competition was intense – where most teams had one year to complete the task, our team only had six weeks. Throughout the competition the most important skill the team learnt was to be adaptive. We experienced some electrical failures at the competition, and as a result of this we had to devise innovative solutions to solve the problem – often under a tight time pressure. Our robot design also taught us that often the best solutions are the ones that are thoroughly planned out, modular in design and with much thought on the fundamentals of the problem.
Throughout the competition we were further able to:
- Develop our CAD skills. We fully designed our robot on Fusion 360 before the manufacturing phase began. Due to our time constraints, we learnt new techniques to make this process more efficient.
- Learn new algorithms. On the software side of the project, we created our own simulation (coded in Python) to test the robot while it was being built. This simulation mimicked the line follow environment and allowed us to fine tune our PID (proportional integral derivative) controller. Our mentor, Kris Choy, mentioned that the majority of these concepts, like PID, directly relate to topics in third and fourth year university. We were very surprised when we heard this as we self-taught these algorithms to ourselves through research. This is one of the things that we love about Robotics – it gives us the opportunity to extend our knowledge often to a university level.
- Computer/robot vision. Using computer vision in the competition was something that we had never tried before and that we were excited to try out. We learnt about image recognition and algorithms to assist us with this such as the Hough Transformation, used for circle detection, and found the concepts a bit challenging. Image recognition was the main software challenge we faced, as we had to devise ways to detect the circular reflective balls reliably. We used the OpenMV camera which we found extremely reliable in this process. As opposed to other cameras which only supported hue recognition, the OpenMV supports a grayscale feature which was critical in distinguishing silver and black balls.
However, without the support of our sponsors, we would have been unable to have this experience. A special mention to WiseTech Global who supported the team financially and is a global logistics software company that believes in empowering high school students to expand their computer science, software and mechatronics engineering capabilities. We would also like to thank the ongoing support of the Fort Street High School Foundation, and we are extremely grateful for the support of Fortians in our community in encouraging the next generation to pursue their passions.
Our robot further relied on a custom printed circuit board and PCBWay prototyped and fabricated our PCBs to an exceptional standard. We also needed to laser cut custom parts for our robot out of aluminium and steel (such as the custom gearing for our claw mechanism), and Laser Wizard graciously provided their plasma cutting services for our need. The team visited their manufacturing facilities to learn about the unique processes involved in precision manufacturing of metal components. We hope to maintain a good relationship with such industry sponsors as students can experiment with a more diverse range of materials and develop advanced robots.
These skills and experiences are priceless and we believe that they are highly beneficial to the future of FSHS Robotics. We plan to return to the club and share the knowledge we gained from the competition to enhance the learning experience for the next generation of innovators. The proposed plans for the future of FSHS Robotics involves:
- Yearly STEM events
- EduTech National Conference Sydney
- An exhibition and conference held by the primary, secondary, tertiary and corporate education sectors to share and exhibit new technologies.
- This is a fantastic opportunity for STEM students to enhance their networking skills as well as develop presentation skills to showcase their work in robotics to NSW and Australia.
- Human Robot Friendship Ball Rhodes
- An exhibition of the latest technologies in robotics and the roles education authorities play in them. We believe that it is important for students to attend these events as it introduces students to what a career in technology may look like.
- Senior member mentorship classes
- We believe in sharing our knowledge to all members of robotics. Senior students (in years 10 – 12) are encouraged to host and teach classes based on their cumulative experience in robotics.
- This is aimed at providing students with a more rigorous understanding of the competition requirements, as well in applying programming and electronics skills taught at school and by the students.
- Courses to be run include:
- Software Programming, Algorithms and Debugging Techniques
- Robotic Systems and Software Implementation
- Robot Design & Mechanics
- CAD & CAM (Manufacturing)
- Electronics & Circuitry
- Project and time management
We further were interviewed by the Australian Computer Society about why Robotics is important to us and what we enjoy about the competition. Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRESJW9B3sw&feature=youtu.be&t=105.
Cristina Koprinski and Gabriel Thien