Prelude to RoboRumble

Article by: Rom Villarica

scissor lift, donburiThe ISM Robotics Club is a relatively new addition to the clubs and organizations of ISM; it only gained popularity in the last two years, when a room was specifically set aside for robotics.  Meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-4:30 PM, the Robotics Club is composed of students who aim to further their interests in technology by building and programming robots to accomplish challenges.  It is a friendly environment, as most of the members build for fun.  As such, a relaxed atmosphere usually pervades the club room.

This feeling of relaxation is all but stripped away, though, when competition season rolls around.  Unbeknownst to the majority of the general public, the Robotics Club has its own traveling competition wherein students travel to the Taipei American School (TAS).  Only four teams can go, and the challenge that must be completed changes every year.

This year, the challenge was named Skyrise.  Teams were able to score by controlling their robots to push plastic cubes into colored zones or pick them up and set them on pillars around the arena. Each team also had a “Skyrise”, a yellow pillar that could be assembled from sections placed on the field onto which cubes could then be placed. Eight teams battled it out in ISM’s preliminary round (named RoboRumble), aiming to be chosen within the top six to be able to qualify for the second round in November.  Teams were ranked based on their performance in three events: the Programming Challenge, the Driver Skills Challenge, and the actual competition.

Of the experience, senior Lucas Ramos, Robotics Club president and member of the senior-exclusive team Operation EDNA,cow bot believes that the end results were worth the work required to attain them, claiming that “the hours we put into our robot paid off; we experienced little to no unexpected difficulties during the competition”.  Nicholas Te of the junior team Donburi Destruction, however, holds a different viewpoint, stating that “Although we were prepared many days before the onset of RoboRumble, we experienced unfortunate mechanical setbacks on competition day that nearly resulted in our being cut from the second round.”

Structural difficulties are but one of the many challenges the robotics teams face in preparation for competition.  Aside from random mechanical breakdowns, teams also have to deal with annoyances such as errors in programming logic and sometimes even connectivity issues between controllers and robots.  The most successful teams, however, are those that are able to overcome the odds, devoting countless hours to building and programming and practicing hard to work out all the issues with their robots in order to take that next step towards qualifying for the Taipei competition.