Sunday, April 15, 2007
Rockhopper wins first place in Expert division!
Needless to say I am rather happy with the result! The contest consisted of 3 runs. On each run there are a total of 4 tasks worth one point each. The tasks are: put out the candle in the lower level of the maze, put out the candle on the upper level, find and mark the "baby" and go up and down the ramp between floors. I was not able to find the baby on any of the runs (the first run it actually did find the baby but dropped the beacon in the hallway outside of the room instead of in the room) put out the candle and made it up and down the ramp (total of 2 points). On my 2nd and 3rd runs it put out both candles and made it up and down the ramp on each for 3 points on each run. My total came to 8 points, the 2nd place robot only scored 2, 3rd place put out one candle for 1 point.
The thing that gave me the edge was reliability. I kept my navigation code very simple (in fact so simple I hesitate to call it "navigation"). I had done a _lot_ of testing ahead of time and tried to make sure it was able to handle any situation without getting stuck. At one point it did manage to get partially wedged against a wall but it _knew_ it was stuck and was able to get free (after 15 or 20 seconds of spinning it's wheels). Other than that my biggest issue was since it doesn't have any real sort of navigation or knowledge of where it is located in the maze it often went into the same room multiple times while missing other rooms entirely. I made some small tweaks (ok, hacks really) to the code between runs and improved it a bit.
The competition was a lot of fun. I enjoyed meeting several of the other robot builders. I had several people ask me a lot of questions about the robot which I really enjoyed. Hopefully people learned some new things from talking to me, I know I learned a few new things from talking to the other builders as well.
I plan on still making a few more updated to the blog with what I have learned over the past couple of months and also some thoughts for the future. I do however need to get back to working on our kitchen before Jane shoots me! So no more robot projects for a little while but I will get back to it! I am thinking I will likely do the competition at Trinity next year but after that I am thinking robot soccer would be a new and interesting challenge.
One last note. For those of you how have followed along and are getting the robot building bug I highly recommend the competition at Trinity. They have entry level divisions for younger builders as well as 2 different high school divisions and a "senior" division open to college students or individual hobbyists. And of course the expert division if you want to run your robot against Rockhopper II next year!