MISSION ROBOCON-2018 : A dream come true!!!!
ABU ROBOCON is an international robotics contest organised by Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union(ABU) and its member countries. Regional competitions are organised in each of the countries with the winners representing their countries in the international edition. This year, ANARC, the Robotics Club of NIT Agartala, participated in this prestigious competition for the first time.The regional competition was held in MIT, Pune from 1st to 3rd March.
ABU Robocon theme this year was based on the traditional Vietnamese game of “Shuttlecock throwing”. The game consisted of an open field with a 15 metre high bamboo ring placed in the middle. Each game is setup between two teams with a three minute time limit. Each team deploys two robots ,one automatic and one manual/automatic. While the manual bot collects and loads shuttlecock to the automatic bot, the latter focuses on throwing the shuttlecocks into the ring from two throwing zones (1 and 2).
Once the automatic bot has thrown the shuttlecock through the ring from the first two throwing zones it gets a chance to attempt a throw from zone 3, i.e the golden shuttlecock zone. If the bot successfully accomplishes this task by getting the shuttlecock through the ring and into the waiting cup,they achieve Rong Bay, an automatic victory.
There were 109 in total who participated in Robocon. The regional contest was conducted by MIT University, Pune so the team reached on 28th of February. Since the size of the bot was about 1*1*1 m, they had to disassemble the bot to carry it safely. The team dedicated the 28th evening for assembling the parts of bot and making proper connections.The teams were also provided a practice arena so that we could make proper calibrations for sensors etc.
Team ANARC successfully cleared the technical inspection for Round 1 and gave a tough fight considering fact that were the first timers. Unfortunately due to some mishandling during the technical inspection for round 2, the team was not able to score good points but still they were among the top 5 teams amongst all IITs, BITs and NITs.
After months of hardwork and dedication, the team was able to secure an overall rank of 58 amongst the 109 colleges all over the country. Also the team made it into the top 5 colleges among the participating IIT & NIT teams. Team TFD congratulates the entire ANARC team for this achievement and wishes the team for the upcoming events.
SHORT INTERVIEW WITH THE TEAM LEADER AAYUSH GUPTA
TFD: Congratulations, Aayush Gupta for this great achievement. How was this very journey as a Leader of NITA Robocon team, a success?
A.G.: “It was my dream from the 1st year to take part in Robocon as a team. The preparations for which started when I got to lead the club this academic year. We started with the design process after the theme was released and conducted meetings every weekend to keep track of the progress. We also made a prototype of the throwing arm to make sure that our approach would work. By the end of December, our designs and approach were ready and we completed the registration. By this time, we had also started purchasing all the parts required to build the robots. However, due to some logistics issues our items were either delivered late or got held up at airports and by 10th February, all the equipment finally arrived. With approx. 15 days at hand, we started the almost impossible task of building and testing both the robots in such a small time. Working day and night, and after many design changes and dead-ends our bots were finally complete by 25th and we were ready to pack them and leave for Pune where the competition was to be held.
After 36 hours of gruelling train journey, finally we arrived at Pune on 28th February Afternoon. Here, the host college provided us with transport to our accommodations while our bots were sent to the pit area. At the pits, we assembled our robots and started testing them. Since, there was only one practice arena, we had to stand in a long line to book our slots for practice in the arena. After waiting for many hours in the line, we got two slots at 4:45 am and 7:45 am for 5 mins practice. The practice hours, in my opinion, were too short to try out the robots and test them. In addition, later that day, 1st March, we had our 2 league matches. Therefore, we optimized our bots for the arena the best we could in the total 10 minutes that we got in the 2 slots and we hoped that the bots would perform well on the main arena.
During the first match with KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, Mumbai, we scored 12 points. The entire first match and most of the second match time was spent in calibrating the automatic bot for the main arena. After that, in the remaining time, we were able to make a single throw, which earned us the points. The opponent team, on the other hand, scored much more than we did, as they were one of the top teams. After, the first match we started working on the shortcomings of the bots and were able to resolve them.
During the second match against SVKM’s NMIMS Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering, Mumbai, we were hoping to score more points than in the first round. However, due to some mishandling of our manual bot during technical inspection, it malfunctioned during the match. In fixing the manual bot, we lost all time in both the games but ended up winning the match nonetheless.
In total, we scored 13 points in the league match, which is very good for a debutant team considering the fact that many IITs, NITs and veteran colleges were unable to score more than 5 points in the league matches. Alas, our points were not enough to make it to the top 24 teams and we were eliminated. Nonetheless, others appreciated our efforts and simplicity of our design.
After the league rounds we were invited to visit the Mathworks office at the arena. Mathworks develops the software, MATLAB and Simulink which many top teams use to model and simulate their robots and develop the algorithms. There we were briefed on the applications of MATLAB and Simulink in Robocon and received T-shirts and goodies. Later, we were sponsored with 10 license keys to make use of their software in future Robocon events. Janatics, a pneumatic systems company, taught us about using pneumatic systems in our robots using their electro-pneumatic starter kit. There were many other such learning opportunities both from companies and students from other teams who shared some insights into their development process.
In this journey of Robocon 2018, I learnt the importance of teamwork. One cannot take such a big project all by oneself. You have to keep trust in your teammates that they will be able to accomplish their duty and deliver the best as per their skills and abilities. There were times where we had lost hope and were on the verge of quitting. However, the constant team support and motivation from our faculty advisor and friends boosted our confidence to accomplish our task and made it possible to achieve the dream of representing our college in a national level robotics competition. All thanks to the awesome team members and juniors, I could not have imagined achieving such a feat. All their team spirit, hard work and dedication guided us to achieve this dream.”
TFD: What were the challenges that the team faced during this entire journey?
A.G.: “Here I would like to list a few major challenges the team faced in the brain storming phase: 1. The first hurdle before us was designing the bot without any previous knowledge. At the very beginning we didn’t even know how was it actually going to look like. From preventing the bot from getting shocks(due to the torque produced by the motor) to deciding whether the throw is going to be underarm or overarm it was just a hit and trial method for us which led us to perfection in the main field. The mechanical part was quite a difficult part as compared to others because we made each and every part manually from cutting to filing which required a large amount of time and labour.
2. Since our college participated for first time, we had very few equipment; so we had to buy them all online. We had very lesser experience and knowledge, which was a bit challenging.
3. The line calibration sensor which we decided to use was LSS05 but that sensor was unable to differentiate between white and green, and white and dark green. Thus we ended up hardcoding the rotary encoded motors using PID calibration to move our bot. The servo motors which we decided to use for the grippers were MG995. But after using them we came to know that they were the worst servos ever build. We tried every other way to debug the problems with it but found no solution. At the time of decreasing of the angle, the motor was shivering and getting a bit hot.
4. Needless, to say that Programming was the least of our concerns when building the bot. As we needed a definite model of the bots, programming was the team’s last undertaking. Even though the fact that our prediction – programming taking a short time – was in fact sound, we undermined one important aspect of the Robocon development cycle: Testing.
We found that even after verifying the code of all logical errors, such problems still persisted. This was a consequence of the imperfections in our code which did not take into account real life factors. Once the coders recovered from the whiplash of the errors, we soon set to work and through stringent testing were able to reach an acceptable level of calibration.”
TFD: What all tips would you like to give to the future Robocon aspirants of NITA?
A.G.:” For the future Robocon aspirants, I would like to state a few tips –
- Start early, form a strong team with all the important skill sets including CAD designing, MATLAB, Circuit Design, Electronics and Fabrication to name a few.
- Once the theme is out, start working on the designs immediately by building their models and testing them thoroughly.
- Order the parts early as they go out of stock very soon and take time to reach here.
- Be clear with the specifications and requirements of all the parts to save time and money.
- In case of doubt, ask your seniors for help.
- Run simulations to test your designs and circuits.
- Maintain unity within your team and try to make the experience fun and interesting.
- Never lose hope and keep trying.”
ANARC TEAM AT ROBOCON-2018