NXT Ball Hunter

This mission of this Ball Hunter robot is to find the red ball and to grab onto it. You can place both the blue and red balls anywhere near the robot to start with, and the robot will try to find the red ball and grab it, using the ultrasonic and light sensors.

I recently attended an FRC (High School robotics competition) event at UC Davis, where this year's challenge involves robots from Red and Blue teams grabbing onto big balls of their color and carrying them around a track (plus a few other things, see this intro video).

FRC is mostly remote controlled, but there is a short (15 second) semi-autonomous period at the beginning, where you get bonus points if the robot can score any points without being under full remote control. I was struck by how little any of the teams tried to do during this period. Most did nothing and just waited for the remote control portion to start. Perhaps this is due to lack of suitable sensors. I don't know, but in any case I was inspired to develop this Ball Hunter project to demonstrate some simple autonomous behavior along these lines for the NXT. FRC robots typically have a weight limit of around 100 pounds (45 kg). Do you think my little bot has a chance?


I got slammed a little by a poster over at the FRC blog for pointing out that FRC robots are not autonomous but simply remote control cars with some cool claws and grapplers...

I know those kids work hard on their projects and in no way do I want to take away from their competition, but I still believe that competitions like these should involved autonomous robots - and sensors - LOTS of sensors. No autonomy... not a robot.
Anonymous said…
As a member of an FRC team and a participant in FRC competitions for the past 3 years, I can tell you why we don't take advantage of the autonomous capabilities: we don't have time. We only have 6 weeks to design, build, program, and test the robot. Now I can only speak for my team, but we have a history of completing construction of the robot only days before it has to be shipped. So, like many other teams, we decide to skip trial and error programming and testing of autonomous mode and opt for driver practice instead.

It is unfortunate though, I believe if we had more time, there would be some incredibly impressive autonomous robots in the competitions.
NXTMonger said…
It would be nice if you had more time. I'm in FLL and we get 12 weeks, and that seems like a really short amount of time. I can't even imagine having 1/2 of that!

Anonymous said…
It's not very accurate saying that FLL robots are autonomous either. Most operate more like a pick and place industrial robot than an autonomous vehicle.

Put 2 or 4 FLL robots on a table at the same time. It would suddenly be VERY difficult to complete even one mission.
Unknown said…
I would have to agree with London Reinhard that the main reason teams don't try the autonomous section is because of the lack of time. The construction effort alone is much more complicated then mindstorms. CAD files have to be made and then all the parts manufactured, bought, and assembled. Time just begins to be too much of an issue to get really autonomous programming accomplished. If the competition really wanted to encourage it they would have to give teams more time and more incentive to program.
Anonymous said…
To say FRC does not place enough "autonomous requirement" is absolutlely true. It is truely much less effort in terms of programming for autonomy than other competitions like the robosoccer, for example, or even the FLL.

To say 6 weeks is simply too short to put in more than 15 seconds autonomy requirement is also true too. I know kids participating in the FRC. They really worked their butt off.

Therefore, I think the question is what is the goal of FRC... to get a competition which is gratifying enough to entise students to even try to go into robotics in college, OR to help to increase the competency in robotics or artificial intelligence.

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