I know it has been ages since I last spoke to many of you about the Open Academic Robot Kit and Confined Space Challenge. Indeed, for a fair few of you it would have been the Response Robotics Summer School last year!
We’re hoping to finally get this off the ground now, and see if we can put together a small pilot team or 2 to take to the RoboCup World Championship, to be held in Hefei, China from the 19th to the 22nd of July this year.
Here’s what we’re hoping to do. Would you like to join us in achieving this?
==== CONCEPT ====
I’ve been through the underlying concept with all of you already so I won’t repeat it here. If you’re reading this as a forwarded email and aren’t familiar with the concept, www.oarkit.org and www.confinedspacechallenge.org give a brief (albeit slightly outdated) overview of what we’re trying to do.
We’re looking to put together a team of somewhere around 5-10 good year 9 students and above from a few schools in and around Perth. I’m hoping to be able to meet with those of you who are interested in the next couple of weeks and if possible, hold an initial session or 3 with students in the second half of the Easter break, followed by regular meetings after school during the week and possibly on weekends.
We should be able to get some space at Curtin to do this but it won’t be a workshop. I like the idea of holding this at the Perth Artifactory although I recall there being some safety related concerns about bringing high school students to the space as an official school trip. Are those concerns still present? If one of your schools (or maybe our friends at Scitech?) has a suitable workshop space that we can use that might also be a good option.
Of course, we would like to also have teachers involved in this pilot team. Being a pilot, we’re using this as an opportunity to figure out how to manage the problem of how much work is being done by the students versus the supervisors – given the somewhat wider variety of engineering challenges involved I’m hoping that we can be somewhat looser with this than in a lot of other competitions.
==== FUNDING ====
We have funding available to provide all of the necessary technical parts and equipment for at least a couple of robots for the team for this year. Of course I’m sure you also have resources that will be helpful.
We should also have some funding left over to support travel. How we split this – one or two full travel scholarships to selected participants or spread out as partial travel support to a wider group – will need to be figured out. A minimal travelling team of 2 or 3 students plus a teacher will suffice although a few more of both would be good if sufficient funding can be sourced.
==== COMPETITION ====
At the World Championship this year, the Confined Space Challenge will be a demonstration “friendly” competition only and we anticipate having maybe 3-4 teams. The team we’re trying to build here (which I’m tentatively calling “Western Australia United” but I’m sure will change) will consist of some of you, your students and the Curtin Computing Students Association (COMSSA). A 2nd team is likely to come from Sydney, lead by UNSW. We also have interest from Europe and Japan, I’m hoping at least 1 more team will come out of that. Finally, for the purpose of baseline demonstration, I plan on bringing my existing robot as a demonstration “team”. While demonstration competitions don’t get assigned trophies, we hope to at least have an official RoboCup certificate to present to members of the winning student team plus certificates of participation for the other teams and students.
==== DEVELOPMENT ====
To speed up development of the WA United team, I’ll provide the arena and at least one robot, most likely a version of the robot with arm that you’ve already seen, that the team can start building from. This means that the loop on a working robot is closed and students can identify and work on different improvements. Examples range from mechanical design, reliability, sensors, electronics and programming, right through to things like figuring out how to train the operator to better control the robot, to solve the ongoing challenges of confined space response robotics. As such, I don’t see this as a replacement for the FRC but rather a complimentary competition that focuses on a somewhat different skillset, gives a somewhat wider range of challenges and can appeal to a somewhat different type of student.
I’ll also be providing 3D printing facilities and advice on 3D modelling (we’ll be using Sketchup to ensure everyone has access) and programming (Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi), at least at first. My hope is that I’ll hand off the majority of this to COMSSA at some point.
==== INVOLVEMENT ====
Please let us know if you are interested, if you have students who you think are likely to be suited to this and what kind of availability you might have for the initial meeting! Also please do let me know if you are able to help with a space to hold this event. I’m also still getting a handle on how logistics work with high schools here so any advice you can provide in this regard would be appreciated.
At this stage we’re trying to keep this pilot small and tightly focused. I think a few people who can work together and contribute to refining the concept that we can take wider next year is the goal, rather than to get numbers right now. Of course, having said that, if you know of other people not on the To: list who you think can help us with this, please do let me know!
I look forward to hearing from you!