The Intense and Beautiful Future of Robotics, via a Bunch of High-Schoolers
Robot 836 was one of the finalists. It was a beautifully simple design: a flat roving base with two arced “arms” of sorts that could scoop, hold, and launch the ball with impressive precision. It rolled on mechanum wheels, a peculiar wheel design with a series of rollers attached around the wheels’ circumferences, allowing the robot to move in any direction with incredible agility. Its automated program had it carry one ball and drag a second behind it, and it almost always managed to make two shots through an upper goal in the first ten seconds of a match.
At the end of the day, as the finals narrowed the field further, things got dirty. Drivers deftly knocked their opponents off-kilter as they shot and maneuvered gracefully to receive passes and score goals. On one occasion, the red ball landed on Robot 836 but bounced out, resulting in a stadium-wide gasp. The harder play eventually started to take its toll on the 836. One wheel came off in the semi-finals, but it kept going. In the next match it seemed to be dropping little nuggets out from under itself as it moved around the arena. It turned out the rollers on a second wheel were breaking off with every move. Luckily the team had an entire spare robot. They harvested parts from the backup and made it to the final round of play in pretty good shape.