Monday, December 19, 2005

Queens Lego Robotics Competition

What a day! The First Lego League held the Borough of Queens Lego Robotics Competition Saturday, December 17th, 2005. Dozens of schools representing many neighborhoods of Queens showed up early carrying kits, bags of snacks, laptops, spare parts and robots.

Six dedicated members of the I.S.93 team showed with 3 parental units in tow! That was great because parents' are part of our team. My team had "the nerves." Gary and Robert took a bit too long to upgrade to fresh batteries and learned first hand about losing firmware in the RCX. That means they had to reload firmware, which should only take 4 minutes. The laptops display screen malfunctioned so another laptop had to be used. That took many minutes to reboot over and over. The nerves grew worse! Then the firmware gets re-loaded. Done. Next we used a flash drive to get the RCX's original code off the malfunctioning laptop. Since opening a .vi file from Robolab directly from clicking on the file is not an option, the files had to be copied deep into the program vault file, which was very time consuming. Next they read an error message that said we could not load files from a newer version of Robolab into a RCX with older firmware! That meant we loaded the wrong version of the firmware from an un-upgraded computer. Luckily we had a third laptop with compatible firmware and their files with their missions were tediously loaded into the brick again. Gary and Robert were very disappointed by all of that frustrating troubleshooting but the fact is they got it done and competed and did their best to accomplish missions. They even managed to score more points than some of the other schools.

Way to go! That kind of knowledge can not be taught- it's only to be gained by experienced.

Next, Gabby and Daniel did a great job with running their 'bot's missions. The spectators and Gabby's mom cheered when they brought the container to the base during the round. I was very proud of their performances because they showed concentration, a great attitude and scored lots and lots of points! They communicated their strategies over and over to ensure the predictable performance of the robot. The teamwork they showed was noticed by many observers.

The success of their robot was due to several factors which we focus on everyday during Lego Roboitcs at I.S. 93: Compact Robust Design, Flexibility in Design and Programming, Teamwork, Adaptablility, and On-The-Fly Problem Solving. All of these concepts were combined to produce a successful and FUN day of competing.

I was very proud of Daniel and Gabby. They showed enthusiasm and clever planning!

Lastly, Robert and Eugene scored the most points of any school's rounds at the tournament. That earned the I.S. 93 team first place in the competition. Their second round yielded the highest points which was the result of really excellent aiming and concise planning that was enhanced by constant strategizing, feedback and communication.

It is difficult to describe how I feel as a coach during these competitions. But the whole robotics experience makes me very proud. Region 4, NYCBOE supplied the training and resources. Steve Shapinsky and Norm Scott set up the tournament and was staffed by scores of adult volunteers and Long Island City HIgh School student volunteers. Our parents came and supported our students. My kids had every challenge and problem a poor robot could throw at them. They competed with poise and grace. We ate together, cheered together and had intense nervous stomachs together. I am blessed to be involved with such a program and I want to thank every single person there who competed, showed up, volunteered, cleaned up, referreed, mentored or who had anything else to do with the program.

A special thanks to Terry Bader for having the foresight to seek the funds and deliver a comprehensive robotics program region wide.


Dr. Antreasian said...

Wow! It sounds like everyone did a great job! I should have mentioned to expect the unexpected. Your experiences with trying to solve the firmware/computer problems as fast as possible are similar to experiences I have had in spacecraft navigation during critical times where we needed to quickly solve for the spacecraft trajectory after a big perturbing event such as a flyby of a moon or planet and the tracking data is corrupted or solutions are not solving out as expected. Its very easy to panic as your adrenalin starts pumping and you can get yourself very confused. All you can do is to take a deep breath, relax and stay focused which sounds like you guys did! Congratulations!

wilson729 said...

And I should have went, but I have to go some place.

Robert said...

This is Robert from 719. During the competition I saw some interesting robots and many different strategies for comnpeting. Waiting for our turn to compete was excrutiatingly nerve wracking. During the first round our robot loosened up and the gears came loose and when I was fixing the problem I was so nervous I pressed on the robot so hard that I crushed the robot to pieces. Then Eugene and I spent the first thirty seconds fixing the robot and we aimed the robot wrong for the sample the species challenge and hit the shark along with a fish and didn't get the points for the challenge. But, in the second round we completed the Pipeline, Reef, Sample the Species, and Cargo challenge along with six crates to score a total of one hundred,seventy-five points.
I believe that the practice competition helped us get used to the elements of the real competition in January.

Nicholas said...

The competition sounded really exciting, but it was to bad I wasn't allowed to go. I know I would've enjoyed the experience.

Kool Kdolo (José M.) said...

I'm a galician member of our team. I liked this text, that makes me know how is the competition and the feelings on it. I'm so exciting thinking on the robot projet, could we build it? I want it. OK, just say thank you for bring us this oportunnity!