Australia FIRST Robotics Competitions

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Allen Stueben, Mauna Loa observer and Associate Scientist II, recently attended two FIRST Robotics Competitions in Sydney, Australia, as one of the mentors for the WHEA (West Hawaii Explorations Academy) Sharkbots FIRST Robotics Team (team #3881.) Both events were held at the Sydney Olympic Park Quaycentre. March 10–12 was the Southern Cross Regional and March 15–17 was the Southern Pacific Regional. The Southern Cross Regional competition included about 40 teams from 7 countries; amidst this fierce competition the Sharkbots advanced as far as the semifinals. The Sharkbots continued to astonish when at the second competition (Southern Pacific Regional, 60 teams from 7 countries) they progressed all the way to the finals and were awarded an invitation to the FIRST world competition in Houston, Texas, USA, later this month. This is an outstanding accomplishment for a low budget team from a small high school! Congratulations to team #3881!!

Photograph of Allen Stueben with a Robot at International Competition
Allen Stueben with Robot #3881 at FIRST Robotics Regional Competition in Sydney, Australia.
Photograph of the Robot #3881 at International Competition
Close up of Robot #3881 at FIRST Robotics Regional Competition.
Photograph of members of West Hawaii Explorations Academy's Sharkbots team
Members of West Hawaii Explorations Academy's Sharkbots team pose at the South Pacific Regional tournament in Sydney Olympic Park in Australia.
Photograph of Allen Stueben with a Kuala Bear, Australia
Photograph of Allen Stueben with a Kuala Bear, Australia.

A new game is announced each year during the first week of January. The game theme and requirements are kept secret until that time. This year the game was titled "Destination Deep Space" and involved an imaginary Planet Primus where unpredictable terrain and weather patterns make remote robot operation essential to their mission. Each team has approximately 6 weeks to design and build their robots. At the end of the last build day, work is halted and the robots must be bagged and tagged. No further work is permitted until competition day when the robots are prepared in the pit areas. Teams, which are grouped into two opposing alliances—Red Alliance and Blue Alliance, have just 2.5 minutes to maximize their score and earn points by deploying their robots from their stations or "habitats," securing hatch panels onto their rockets and cargo ships as well as loading with cargo then racing back to the habitat before an impending "sandstorm." During the sandstorm, the operators cannot directly see the game field and the robots must either operate autonomously or be guided by a video system. At the finish, the operators have only 30 seconds to guide their robots back to their habitats and then commandeer their challenging climb to one of 3 levels; reaching higher levels scores more points. And scoring more points is exactly what team #3881 did so successfully!

See a link to a story in the West Hawaii Today newspaper:

Allen described the Robot: The robot has a drive base with six wheels and 4 electric motors—3 wheels and two motors on each side. It is turned by running the motors on each side at different speeds, which is referred to as tank style steering. The driver uses two joysticks to control speed, turning, and other functions. It is very maneuverable and quite fast. A two jointed robotic arm is mounted near the front of the drive base. The arm can be folded backward so it is completely within the perimeter of the base or rotated forward so it extends in front of the robot. A mechanism on the end of the arm is designed to be able to pick up and place either the "hatch panels" (~ 20" diameter plastic disks) or "cargo" (~ 13" diameter balls) that are used in game play.
It's really quite a complex robot for high school students to design/build/program in 6 weeks!