Botball is a middle and high-school robotics program. Teams uses kits of legos, microprocessors, and sensors in order to compete against one-another for various ping-pong balls, foam balls or other scoring elements. This program is of great importance to me because it is what convinced me to stay in school, and to study engineering. The program is very well run, endlessly fun, and I owe so much to it. I joined my middle school team in sixth grade. This was convenient because a year ago my parents had gotten me the lego-mindstorms for christmas, and I already had experience building with lego technics and using the windstorms. For the next seven years I began to spend too much time building and perfecting these robots as the lead-builder for each team. My team in high school managed to win the state championships three consecutive times, and win nationals two consecutive times, as well as win many design awards.
I realized quickly that with robots that have inexact localization and internal sensing, that once they are free, they quickly become hopelessly lost. The counter-measure that I developed in order to account for this was to make robots that were essentially fixed to the ground - as industrial robots. These robots had many crazy linkages and arms that folded into the starting box, and extended to grab the scoring elements. I began to use primarily rubber bands and gravity in order to get to the scoring elements with as much speed as possible. Once these robots worked, they worked consistently almost every time, and the two years that we won nationals, we had two very big arm robots that folded up and extended within 5 seconds to grab the key-scoring element. Other teams simply had no chance as long as they worked since we reached the main points and were gone before they had driven out of the starting box. This robot folded up with several different arms actuated by rubber bands. The picture doesn't really show this very well, in order to really see what this robot can do look at the first 15 seconds of the video here . The challenge in this board is to take this balls hanging from the colored pendulum and bring them back to the scoring area near the edge of the board furthest from the pendulum.
The picture below is what we called BFA 2. This robot won the nationals in 2006 in Norman, OK I could not find any pictures of BFA 1, which won the nationals in 2005 in Orlando, Florida.
The strategy of a large arm fixed to the ground did not work for all of the playing fields. Over the seven years I build somewhere around 15 or 16 sets of robots, usually one for the regionals, and a different one for nationals, and then a set or two just for fun.
this is the last botball robot that I ever built. It is designed to pick up these little pouffy "trebles" and mechanically sort them by color (the yellow owns were always on top of the stack. It placed them in separate bins and then each of backed up to the scoring area (one cylinders for each color which were side-by side) and dumped its bins over into the scoring area.
This is yet another robot designed for the same challenge year as the BFA 2