A Return Visit

So I’m back from college for spring break, and I’ve been put to work. I walked in the door and Mr. Gras said, “hey, you came back to blog for us!”

Then Mrs. Newcastle saw me, greeted me cheerfully and asked me about school, then as a sidenote asked if I came back to blog. I went down the basement, where Tucker and Ryan were like “sam! you’re back! you gonna blog?” and then Mr. Newcastle showed me the new board…. and… asked if I came back to blog.

Well, no, actually I did not come back to blog. I came back because I’m on break, it’s Sunday afternoon, I don’t have anything better to do, and I love my nerdy robot friends. But sure, I’m here, and it feels awkward to be sitting idly in the BotCave.

For Botball 2009, there’s obviously a new board and a new challenge. The challenge is meant to be a “green” challenge, with the main objectives including installing wind turbines, utilizing hydroelectric power, and storing fossil fuels. Botguy seems to be the most valuable object in the game, provided a good amount of object collection is done, because depending on where he gets to on your side, he doubles or triples the score.

This board has two hills and a valley, with each start box in the valley at the bottom of that team’s hill. The hill is utilized in a variety of “eco-friendly” ways: the blue foam balls representing water must be taken to the top so their energy can be used, and the pinwheel “wind turbines” are supposed to be installed at the top of the hill to harvest the most wind energy. The green tribbles represent “green” fuels, and the orange tribbles are meant to be fossil fuels. All of these together , when used properly, generate points and generate power to give light and electricity back to the blacked-out city of Robopolis.

Link: Botball 2009 Game Video

Our main challenges so far involve new hardware and software. The code has evolved and is giving the software team some new difficulties. The camera this year is a typical webcam, and it is a great deal slower than the previous camera, taking only about 3 sweeps per second. This delay will make it a bit more difficult to get a good reading of the board and to stop loop commands. The XBC has been replaced by a CBC, which, rather than looking like a Game Boy Advance controller, has a fancy schmancy touch screen and has a processing system inside it. Adjusting to the new systems is our first objective to keep in mind as we consider game strategy.

Head-to-Head Round 9 : The Last One

Once again, we faced the team that stacked the cups on their back and then drove them all across to the other side. This time, we even got all of the cups off our side, the clincher that would have given us the lead in our previous loss to this team. But this time, that wasn’t enough.

The Legobots ran into each other while crossing the bridge, and both fell off. Both Creates sorted tribbles well, and theirs went around stacking cups on its back. When our Create got across the bridge and into their shelter for those crucial 30 points, we all clapped and cheered, knowing we had done the best we could do. But their Create made it to our side too, taking with it -16 points in cups. It was a good round, we’d done all we could, and it was very impressive to have gotten as far as we did.

103 – 110

This gave us the third place title in Head-to-Head, following up a 6th in Seeding. Overall, we scored 4th. To be the 4th best Botball team in the world? I consider that an honor. We did the best we could, had a great strategy, and put up a very competitive fight against the best teams out there. It was nice.

Head-to-Head Round 8

We did a great job this round, with the Create, once again, doing an excellent job on the Tribbles. One of their bots had a big arm serving as a blocker for anyone trying to get across the bridge. Unlike Project X, this one didn’t prevent the bridge from coming down, it was just meant to prevent the bots from getting onto their side. It was a big x-shaped thing that anchored itself against the other half of the bridge, making it pretty sturdy. But our Legobot, built of strength and sheer awesomeness, managed to get a little bit under the blocker and pushed it up enough to get through the opening. Once it got on their side, it had no idea where it wsa going, but it was still a nice move.

Legobot didn’t hit the other half of the bridge down, and it ended up getting bulldozed into the corner by their create. This seemed to be karma, another bot returning the favor for last round’s mischief. Legobot was mercilessly crushed until the arms broke and it almost fell off the table. According to Connor, it was “protesting to the point of injuring itself.” Anthony was not there to run to the table holding the stretcher and shouting medic!,  but we managed to bandage up Legobot before the next round.

80 – 32

Head-to-Head Round 7

This team had an interesting strategy: their create appeared to fling itself into space, but suddenly their XBC popped out of the top and tried to make its was to the other side on an alternate set of wheels. We had seen it work successfully in a few rounds, but this time it didn’t make it out of the little cage mechanism and didn’t make it onto our side. Our Legobot got over to their side, but missed the tape and didn’t turn around to get the other half of the bridge down. Instead of going for the bridge or messing up their tribble piles, it just decided to ram straight into their robot. We pushed their bot around the table until it was stuck against the wall, and even as it tried to back up we just kept accelerating them and they had no choice but to comply. This kind of bot-on-bot action is the most hilarious and unpredictable part of Botball.

The Create obviously couldn’t make it across just half a bridge, but it had done a nice job rescuing crew members and plants so we ended up with a nice score.

101 – 7

Head-to-Head Round 6

After Hannah and Liam set up the bots in the start box and everything was all ready to go, the other team came around the table and debated whether our bots were all the way within the lines. This was a perfectly reasonable argument, since it is an important rule and we may have done the same for another team (especially one as intimidating as ourselves) but once we rearranged the bots, they needed to be entirely recalibrated to the light sensor. Although we only needed to move the Create, it was very important that we reset both of the light sensors in case anything had changed. The new placement of the Create could affect the light that reached Legobot, and nothing would be worse than having a robot that didn’t leave the start box because of a faulty calibration.

But once that was all taken care of, it turned out to be an excellent round. The Create continued its consistent Tribble gathering and did much better on the cups this time. Their Legobot had planned to sit where our bridge would go to serve as a blocker, but we hit the bridge down before they got there so their bot got confused and drove off the edge. Although Legobot got to the other side, it missed the tape and didn’t manage to hit down the other half of the bridge. It seemed to have stopped running, but towards the end of the 2 minutes it started up again and ended at the edge of their start box. The start switch was precariously on the edge, and nobody could decide if it should count or not. Even Dave Miller, a member of KIPR’s board of directors, came over to try and decide our point total. In the end, it was a nonissue because whether that bot was worth 15 points or 30, we still had the round in the bag.

113 – 48

Six teams left!