E-Tech Robotics Academy
Attention: Due to uncertain COVID restrictions at USAFA, this activity will be moving locations in 2021. It will resume at USAFA in 2022. If you have been slotted the Activity Director will be contacting you with additional details.
THIS SUMMER WE ARE OFFERING AN EXCITING COURSE IN ROBOTICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION!!!!
WHAT: ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGIES (E-TECH) ROBOTICS ACADEMY
WHERE: U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
E-TECH ROBOTICS takes the NCSA held in California 2015-2017 to new heights, relocating to the United States Air Force Academy and expanding from seven program days to TEN!
Cadets will learn about engineering solutions to solve and overcome physical problems. Starting with stationary structures engineered for strength and rigidity, training will progress to gears and linkages for motion, then add in motors for power and robotic control so that the machines can react to the world around them. Lessons will start with lectures to introduce concepts, proceed to labs where the cadets can experiment with what they learned, and then progress to competitions where small teams will submit their entries to determine who has the most elegant and best-functioning engineering constructions. A pure academic and hands-on environment, emphasis will be on learning complex subjects through hands-on experience in fun challenges. The pace and demands placed on the cadets will be mentally grueling – there will always be incredible amounts of pressure and never enough time to complete each assignment. Time management, focus, and teamwork will be essential elements for success. This will be ten days of revealing, exciting, challenging and highly entertaining hard work – so don’t apply if you’re not prepared to give your best, all the time, every time! Prior graduates and extremely-well prepared cadets may request to participate in the “Advanced Track” – which will be offered if there are sufficient numbers to conduct it.
Below is an outline of some of the things we’ll be exploring.
- We’ll provide a rundown of the individual components in the EV3 set.
- We’ll study the five types of structural stress by manipulating blocks of Bazooka bubble gum, then go through a series of experiments where we explore how those stresses impact Lego Technic construction mechanisms.
- The first mini-competition, “To a T” challenges the learner to build a structurally sound “T” using the techniques introduced so far. Set criteria (expressed in NON-Lego terms) are defined, and then the learner is challenged to explore the concepts and build some stable T-Shaped structures.
- In Gears and Linkages we discuss the old standbys gearing up and gearing down, and speed vs. torque. The “Going for a Spin” exercise here is to build a device with a crank that has a rotor spin the maximum number of times with one turn of the crank.
- In Linkages cadets wills study how a rotary motion can be converted to a reciprocal, or other patterns.
- To study the engineering of structures, we’ll talk a little bit about bridges – the different types that exist and how they provide strength to allow them to support many times their own weight. We’ll do a balsa bridge building competition and put the student builds to the test in two separate events, so cadets can apply lessons learned in the first competition to improve their designs in the second.
- Each group will build one of six bots pre-designed bots, and then we will compare how they differ from one another and evaluate strengths and weaknesses. I think this analysis and assessment component is an important part of developing critical thinking skills to use when evaluating your own approaches and designs.
- Cadets will program the two-wheeled bot to do various tasks. By using a variety of platforms with different dimensions and specifications, we can take the time to explain how to measure wheelbases to calculate turning radii and other such mathematical approaches. Instead of just saying “Here is a program that makes it work” we can force them to understand WHY it works the way that it does, and then figure out their own particular solution – even for their own unique designs.
- We’ll cover the concept of the Simple Machines (Inclined Plane, Wedge, Screw, Lever, Pulley, and Wheel & Axle) and Mechanical Advantage. I gave this class at the STEM ONE activity, and it was very well received. Explaining these concepts can lead to new ideas for how to improve the basic bot designs and extend their capabilities.
- We will study some common automotive concepts, like chassis, differentials, and steering mechanisms and incorporate them into bots – then square off for some head-to-head racing events.
- Later in the week we will get heavy into programming, and to have the robots handle different circumstances. As an example, a robot could be just randomly wandering around until the color sensor discovered something interesting, or a touch sensor made contact, or a button on the brick was pushed, or the IR beacon sent a new command. Each of these could promote a different action from the robot, so the programs would have to be written to accommodate any of these possible events occurring – possibly multiple events at the same time.
- We’ll have the cadets build fly-by-wire demonstrators, constructing an airframe with working ailerons, elevator and rudder, as well as a cockpit with a stick and pedals to actuate the control surfaces on the airframe.
- The final competition will be a sumo type of event where the goal was to push your opponent out of the ring. We’ll look at the use of tracks for gaining increased traction, including how to rig treads, and how to provide some manner of suspension for them. Next we need to talk about establishing a plan. Which way will your build go – speedy and nimble, or slow and strong? A focus on a devastating attack capability, or a focus on a solid defensive stance to withstand such attacks? The participants will have to think about the different design approaches and come up with a definite plan, and then build to that plan in a quest of the Robot Sumo championship.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the activity director:
|E-Tech Robotics Academy, Director
John DiGiantomasso, Lt Col, CAP