Let's Make Robots!

Guangzhou Science Center robot competition

As an advisor to the Guangzhou Science Center I occasionally have to go there and do some work. This time I was one of their judges for a local robot competition. There were 2 categories, non-programmable robots for younger students and programmable robots for older students. All teams received a sheet of 2mm thick heavy duty cardboard for their chassis and a kit from DAGU that included:

  • 2x geared motors
  • 2x wheels with rubber tires
  • 1x ball caster
  • 1x bread board
  • 1x pack of jumper wires
  • 2x bumper switches with wire antennae
  • 2x double AAA battery holders
  • 1x power switch
  • 1x packet of miscellaneous parts including screws, hex spacers, double sided tape, cable ties and instructions.

The teams in the programmable robot challenge also received:

  • 1x Mini Driver
  • 1x LDR
  • 2x RGB LEDs

These kits ensured that all teams had the minimum necessary materials to complete the challenge. Each team supplied their own tools and were allowed to bring extra parts and materials for their chassis.

For the non-programable robot competition the theme was lunar rovers and space exploration. If the students assembled their kit correctly they would have a simple bump and turn robot to build upon. Students had 3 hours to complete their robot. There were about 60 teams in this category and I was one of the judges so I was very busy.

Most of what the students did was purely decorational however some of the more clever teams added their own inovations such as a simple IR sensor. Some went one step further and made their sensor scan back and forth on an arm driven by either another motor or the drive wheels.Unfortunately I was that busy with the judging I forgot to take photos of that competition.

The programable robot competition required the students to build and program their robot to wander about an arena and detect the colour of patches on the floor. This required more advanced bump and turn routines otherwise the robots could get stuck. It also required the kids to build and calibrate a simple colour detector from an RGB LED and an LDR. Their robots indicated what colour they though the patch beneath them was by imitating it with the RGB LED at the top of their robot. Students had 5 hours to build, program, test and calibrate their robot.

Each robot had a set amount of time to correctly detect colour patches on the floor. The robot that correctly identified the most patches in that time won. There were also about 60 teams in this category.

I've attached three videos. The first shows the teams assembling their programmable robots. The second video show the students testing and calibrating their colour sensors. The third video shows the competition. I was not involved in the judging here. volunteers in the orange vest kept track of each robot and how many patches it correctly identified. Sorry about the video quality, I only had my phone camera with me.

It was nice to see a different kind of challenge to the popular Sumo or line following challenges. Some robots navigated the arena well but did not accurately detect colours, some detected colours well but got stuck in a corner or in at least one case ended up going round and round one of the obstacles in the center. One robot navigated well but moved too quickly. By the time it detected a colour patch it had already overshot it and ened up trying to test the white area around the patch.