Sunday, February 8, 2015

VEX Robotics Competition

The VEX Robotics Competition is presented by the Robotics Education & Competition FoundationEach year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots designed to score the most points possible in qualification matches, elimination matches and Skills Challenges. In addition to having a great time and building amazing robots, through their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition and their work within their team, students will learn many academic and life skills. The competition tournaments are hosted by various organizations with help from REC Foundation. 

A robot placed two cubes on a skyrise

CIE/USA-DFW, which is a non profit organization with mission to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) awareness in DFW area, successfully organized its first VEX robotics competition on February 7, 2015, in a Gymnasium at a local middle school.

Making it Happen

It took a lot efforts to make this event to happen and to be successful.

First and foremost, it was the planning. The event planning and organizing team captain Arnold initiated this event within CIE, and he took great efforts to learn how to host the event. He also convinced CIE/DFW leadership to have the event on the youth program.

To make the event actually happen, we needed a lot of volunteers to help. The volunteers were critical to carry out the plan. One important area needed help was the logistics for the event, which include 1) reservation of a venue and purchase of associated insurance, 2) venue preparation - tables and chairs (primarily from facility renting entity), banners, signs for directions ...,  3) setup and disassemble the competition fields, 4) food and water for volunteers, 5) materials for registrations, programs. The other important area was the operation of the event which include 1) registration, 2) Inspection of robots, 3) scoring and refereeing, 4) judging, 5) event control and record keeping.

A volunteer was inspecting if a robot met size requirement

There were about 15 adult volunteers which served as lead or adviser to 40 high school student volunteers. There were additionally seven engineers from local companies who served as judges for the competition.

The matches

The competition involved an elaborate and relatively long qualification round. Each match has two teams compete against each other - red team and blue team. The intriguing part is that a red or blue team is made up of two participating teams. For the 20 teams participated, each team played 7 matches with various partner teams selected by REC foundation's program.

A match itself include two part - a 15 second autonomous portion and a 1 minute 45 second driver controlled part. A robot is operated through a program written by its team in the autonomous part. The goal of the game was to place blue or red cubes on the grey posts on the perimeter of the filed or to build a skyrise (the yellow post) and place the cubes on the skyrise.

A robot attempted to place two cubes on a skyrise

The matches were very interesting to watch. In one match a robot  built a seven segment skyrises and placed 7 cubes on the skyrise, seemly effortlessly. Then one saw a robot just could not open its hand to garb cubes! One player tried too hard that his robot toppled.

In addition to try their best to make their robots to do the intended tasks,  some competing teams engaged in  tactical activities such as moving oponent's cubes away from its robot, removing opponent's cubes from grey posts ......

The finals

The finals were between Alliances formed by #1 qualifying team and by #2 qualifying team. Each Alliance consists of three teams. The two alliances were evenly matched, and the matches were very exciting - the playing field was totally surrounded, many spectators had to stand on chairs or tables in order to watch!
scene at finals
The first match of the final was  most exciting and enjoyable. Both competing alliances were at their best, each built a 6 or 7 skyrise, placed as manycubes onto it, and placed many cubes on the grey posts. There were many changes of leads until the last second - one incomplete act by #1 team made it lose the first match 61 vs 64. The second match was more thrilling than exciting as one team could win the championship! But both team made some mistakes, the matched was tied at 32 points each. The 3rd match was dramatic in that #2 Alliance accused # 1 Alliance of rule violation by requesting a size inspection, and #1 Alliance retaliated by requesting size inspection on the opponent's main robot as well. In the third match, one of #1 Alliance's robot malfunctioned, it could not open its hand to grab anything. All the malfunctioned robot could do was to push opponent's cubes away from opposing robot. In the end #2 Alliance lead by team Crossfire won the match and the championship!

Award presentation 

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