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2011 Firefighting Robots

The Precipitating Pachyderm v2.0
The Precipitating Pachyderm v2.0 is more or less the same as last year's robot but has a new smaller/lighter extinguishing system and totally redesigned electronics. Work was done to filter and calibrate sensors for better precision and to achieve better robustness and reliability. Checkout our Precipitating Pachyderm v2.0 development page for more details.














Jumbo Shrimp v1.0

Jumbo Shrimp v1.0 is our new experimental robot. It uses an omni-directional drive that allows it to move in any direction while maintaining the same orientation/heading. Jonah took the lead on this and used cardboard prototypes to test the robot's feasibility until eventually settling on the final design for the chassis. Read more out Jumbo Shrimp's development here.








The Team

Jonah Kadoko - Team Leader
Constantin Berzan - Lead Programmer
Will Langford - Manager/Organizer
Jeff Arena - Alternate

Post-Competition Results

    It came down to the wire but we were ultimately really happy with the robots' performance at the competition. The Precipitating Pachyderm managed to extinguish flames on two out of three trials (and would've taken out the first one too if we hadn't made a silly last minute coding error). Jumbo Shrimp came very close to putting out a candle but ultimately we just didn't have enough time to perfect it's code. This was in large part because the Friday before the competition we realized how difficult programming him in his current omni-directional drive state would be; for this reason, we converted him from a swerve drive (or omni-drive) to a standard differential drive by replacing one of the wheels with an omni wheel. With such a major last minute design change, we had to start coding again from scratch.
    Along with the standard firefighting competition they also offered a written exam competition for the teams themselves. The Olympiad exam was an hour long and tested critical thinking in the context of engineering principles (ie. gear-trains, robot navigation + path optimization, sensors, etc...). We came in first and got a nice plaque we can now show-off in the Botlab (I think we also got some prize money but I'm not sure how much yet...).

Takeaways

It's always a good idea to reflect on what we learned from the competition soon after finishing it. Here are some things we learned, things we want to try, and some general ideas for next year...
  • Choose the algorithm first and then design the robot around it.
  • Do thorough design reviews early to catch critical flaws before it's too late.
  • Code early and design tests to validate performance.
  • Path planning with encoders is something we'd like to perfect and use more in our code.
  • Mapping (SLAM)
  • Dual processors (have an Arduino that acts as a realtime controller responsible for low level motion commands like PID and another Arduino that does higher-level navigation and decision making or serial communication back to the computer)
  • use Xbee's early on for wireless sensor feedback (figure out how to upload code remotely) - this should very much improve the testing and coding process