NE FIRST

Minibots & Andromeda One

This story is a testimonial provided by FIRST Robotics Team 4905 – Andromeda One on 6/28/2021. Written by Bill Walter and Seth Valliere.

When FRC4905 Andromeda One picked up their free Romi Mini-bot, they had no idea that it would lead to such a broad path of learning and fun while improving the team’s capabilities. Team 4905 was busy competing in the Infinite Recharge at Home and Game Design challenges so they had little time and few resources to dedicate to the new mini-bot challenge. The first mini-bot challenge, Mondrian Madness, was clearly designed to help teams become familiar with programming and controlling the mini-bot. The challenges were run very similarly to the Infinite Recharge at Home challenge. Teams recorded and uploaded the mini-bot completing a challenge, which is then compared to other teams that competed. Getting started with the mini-bot was easy as all the steps necessary to set up and run were clearly documented on the WPI FIRST Robotics Competition website. The small size of the mini-bot meant that team members could work on the challenge at home. At the completion of the first challenge team 4905 had scored a judges award, 2nd fastest tele-op time, and 3rd fastest overall time.

The first challenge’s success drew in more interest and help for the second challenge, Color Conundrum. This challenge was played on a larger, more complex field and was set up to build better driving and programming skills. The team was able to build on the path planning software capabilities used for Infinite Recharge at Home to improve the mini-bot autonomous performance. Being able to run the same code on both the mini-bot and competition bot was such a powerful training tool that the team decided to buy 3 more Romi mini-bots. Meanwhile the team driver, Seth, was able to continue improving his driving skills at home. The Team’s efforts paid off with 2nd place awards for both autonomous and tele-op performance. 

The third mini-bot challenge, Frantic Fetch, required the team to get CAD and Hardware involved to design a mechanism to collect balls on the field. It also pushed further into the realm of strategy to determine the fastest way to pick up and deliver balls. After a few prototypes the team settled on a design that was dubbed the “Dual Harvester”. The design could pick up balls at the front and rear of the bot which minimized the amount of turning necessary for a fast transit time. The design was very effective, scoring Andromeda One first place in all three categories: tele-op, autonomous and overall time.

NE FIRST decided to make the fourth challenge a virtual tournament called “Alliance Antics”. After reviewing the rules it was clear that teleop would be a shootout so the team wanted to maximize autonomous and endgame points and minimize penalties. It was not clear how this could be done reliably with a robot similar to the one the team used for Frantic Fetch. Thinking out of the box the team came up with the idea of driving straight down the center of the field and collecting the balls with outstretched arms and depositing them all in the goal. By using a simple line follower the bot could travel back and forth accurately making parking easy and avoiding penalties for knocking over batteries. Much of the Qualifying rounds were spent working out the bugs of the complex robot system that had only been completed days before the tournament. This resulted in lackluster Qual performance, but by the time finals rolled around the team had reliable operation. Andromeda One was picked by the 5th seed team FRC 3623 the Terror Bots which formed an unstoppable alliance achieving the highest tournament score and winning all playoff matches but one which ended in a tie. 

Seth from team 4905 had lots of fun being the team’s driver throughout each competition, but really enjoyed coming from behind in the finals to win the competition. “The final competition was definitely my favorite.” remarked Seth “It taught me a lot about teamwork and how to be a successful driver during competitions.” Seth learned that communication and teamwork with Sean, the human player, was important to score quickly and resolve issues as they arose in competition. The mini-bot competition also allowed Seth to expand his skill set. “These competitions helped me experience the software aspect of robotics. As a member of the hardware team, I had never done any sort of software work. However, I now have some knowledge on how our team programs our robots.” according to Seth. The driving experience that Seth got during the mini-bot challenges was invaluable and will go a long way once FIRST competitions start up again.

Andromeda One would like to thank NE FIRST, WPI, and BAE Systems for making the mini-bot Challenge possible. The team looks forward to using the Romi mini-bot platform for future software training and hopes to see other teams at the next mini-bot challenge.