My name is Ian Oakes and this is my fourth year in Lego Robotics. I am going to tell you all about Robot design, which is sometimes referred to as Technical Judging, and consists of 1/4 of our total score. Technical judging includes the ingenuity of the design of the robot, how the programming is thought out and how advanced it is and how the robot was used creatively to accomplish the missions.

Each team designs and builds a robot using lego pieces and the NXT micro-controller, which holds all of the programs. Designing and building our robot this year was a challenge because of the many obstacles and tight spaces on the board. To overcome this our team set out to make a robot that was narrow but at the same time able to accomplish multiple tasks at once. We spent a lot of time brainstorming and trying out different ideas. In the end we devised a forklift on the back of the robot and a simple bumper to push objects on the board.

In designing our robot we also incorporated multiple sensors like light sensors, touch sensors and ultrasonic sensors. At the front, behind the bumper we placed two light sensors that measure the different reflected lights on the board (like black lines, shapes etc.). With these light sensors we are able to program the robot to either follow or stop at certain lines. The reason for two light sensors is to find the intersections of black lines. On the front above the bumper we placed an Ultrasonic sensor for measuring the distance to an object on the board, like the wall. It uses echolocation, like a bat. On the right side of the robot we placed a Touch sensor this will tell the robot when it runs into a wall.

To program our robot we use computer software called Lego Mindstorms. In this software there are square blocks that you place in a line to write a program. Each of the square blocks does a different thing. Some are for powering motors others are used to incorporate sensors into your program and some even solve math problems using variables and sensors. Some programs are very complex and advanced while others are as simple as just powering a motor at a certain amount for a certain length of time. This year our team divided the work so that the older more experienced kids on the team did the advanced programming and the easier missions were given to the less experienced. We worked in pairs to help each other solve problems and to double check for reliability. In this way everyone on the team had a chance to do some programming and be a part of accomplishing missions in the robot game.

During the technical judging we have 5 minutes to show them our robot, program print outs, and a couple of missions. Then the judges ask us questions for the next 5 minutes. They want to make sure that we, the kids, did all of the work and can explain all of the programming. The coaches are not allowed to talk. The judges are also looking to see how creative and innovative we are in our design and programming. Overall our team scored very well at both the regional and state competition in Technical judging. Hours of designing and building plus even more hours of programming, testing, and reprogramming all paid off!