Thursday morning (6/27) we were up by 6:30am, off to get breakfast. The students had to report to their competition area by 7:30 to receive instructions, with the competition itself beginning at 8:00 and running for nine hours (minus a lunch break).
The official description of the Robotics & Automation Technology contest on Skills USA’s website is:
“Challenges two-person teams to demonstrate operation of a five-axis servo-robot along with a set of sensors and motorized devices to resolve a simulated production process problem. Teams set up and demonstrate operation of a robotic workcell from a word problem. Contestants are required to create a flow chart and sequence of operation. Teams are also judged on efficiency, speed and teamwork.”
Here are Abhishek & Bhola reading the specifications for the robot’s task, and drawing up plans:
After planning out the inputs/outputs, the system layout, and a flow chart of how the action will occur, the students had to bring up their plans to get approved by a judge:
The two students divided up their tasks loosely as follows: Abhishek is the electromechanical integration technician, and Bhola is the robot programmer. (These job titles were recommended by Skills USA.) Here Bhola has begun writing the program, and Abhishek is wiring some of the input/output devices:
Though sometimes they reversed roles:
Or worked together on one piece of the task:
The contest had two tasks, though I only saw one high school team advance past the first task during Thursday’s competition. The first task was described to me by our team as follows. The student teams had eight blocks: half aluminum, half plastic; half with small hole indentations, half without; all of which would be loaded in random order into a pneumatic parts feeder. The program needed to send a block forward from the pneumatic feeder into loading position, get the robotic arm to pick it up, sense whether the block was plastic or aluminum using an inductive sensor, position the block to get a hole punched out with the pneumatic hole press, press the hole, then check with a limit switch whether the hole was done correctly, then (based on the information found out by the two sensors) sort the block to its final resting place—a bin if defective (i.e., no hole), a square outline if the block was good. All while flashing a red warning light if the robot was in motion, green if all clear, and yellow during the hole punch. You can see a green or a red light on in some of the above pictures. Also: every sensor, the pneumatic feeder, the lights, the emergency stop, the conveyor belt, all had to be wired correctly according to a wiring logic diagram, into a 12V power source, ground, and/or a programmable logic controller.
Here’s a panorama of all the robotics teams:
Much of the day was spent teaching the robot positions, getting them just right, and troubleshooting the program to get it all to work together seamlessly. In the end, the Baltimore team did succeed in getting the workcell functioning, sorting out blocks based on material and holes. They called a judge over to evaluate the task with ten minutes to spare. However, when the judge finally made it over, there was a technical difficulty with the robot stopping mid-air soon after picking up the block. The robot produced an error message onscreen about “time duration”. The judge let them try it a couple of times, but finally said that they were out of time for fixing that problem (and for the day). It was time to pack everything up and clear the competition floor.
Our bad luck continued that evening. Soon after arriving for the “Worlds of Fun” amusement park, a thunderstorm broke out and everyone was sent home to the hotels!
More posts soon to come: Friday and our time as tourists in Kansas City; then the trip back to Baltimore.