Robot competitions: Safety, pit etiquette, and troubleshooting tips

robotics competition

Entering a local or national robot combat competition for student robotics teams represents a significant achievement. It’s a chance to showcase the culmination of their hard work, test their creations against other builders, and gain valuable real-world experience.

However, ensuring a smooth and successful competition experience requires careful preparation and adherence to safety regulations. This article outlines essential considerations for student teams venturing into the exciting world of robot combat competitions.

Pre-Competition Essentials: Safety and Organization

1. Prioritizing safety in the Pits: The competition “pit” area, where teams work on their robots, can be a hub of innovation and learning. Students can observe other teams’ creations and glean valuable insights. However, it’s vital to acknowledge the potential safety hazards present. Power tools, soldering irons, and Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are commonplace, necessitating clear safety guidelines for all team members.

2. Securing Adequate Pit Space: Competition space is often limited, with teams typically allocated a single table. Contacting the event organizer beforehand to inform them of your student team’s participation is advisable. This allows the organizer to accommodate your team with additional space or position you in a less crowded pit area.

3. The Importance of Cradles: All robots under maintenance must be placed on a dedicated cradle. This cradle should fully support the robot, ensuring its wheels are completely off the ground for safety reasons.

4. Packing for Efficiency: A well-curated set of basic tools is crucial due to limited pit space. A small toolbox that fits comfortably under the team’s table is ideal.

5. Fueling Up for Success: Ensuring students have a steady supply of food, drinks, and snacks is vital. Competition venues are often situated within exhibition centers where food options can be expensive and far from the pit area. Packing sufficient sustenance is key to maintaining team energy throughout the event.

6. Safe LiPo Battery Management: Regulations regarding safe transportation and charging of LiPo batteries vary by competition. Familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines beforehand and ensure you possess a safe method for transporting and charging these batteries.

7. General Maintenance Tips:

  • Thread Lock Every Bolt: Applying thread lock to all bolts prevents them from loosening during competition, potentially causing malfunctions.
  • Post-Fight Wheel Checks: After each fight, meticulously check that all the robot’s wheels rotate freely.
  • Monitoring Component Temperatures: Carefully inspect components for signs of excessive heat, which could indicate potential damage.

Troubleshooting in the Pits: Common Issues and Solutions

The fast-paced nature of robot combat inevitably leads to unforeseen problems. Fortunately, many of these issues can be rectified within the pit area. Here are some common challenges and solutions to keep your team’s robot in top fighting form:

  • Low Power Supply: A weak radio signal or intermittent drive can often be resolved by simply swapping in a fresh battery pack. Alternatively, a BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuit) can convert the main power supply voltage to a level suitable for the receiver.
  • Radio Signal Issues Within the Arena: Several factors can contribute to a well-functioning robot outside the arena experiencing radio signal problems within. A crucial first step is to ensure the receiver’s antenna has no obstructions, minimizing potential interference.
  • Electrical Noise Affecting Radio Signal: The signal cables connecting the receiver to the Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs) can be susceptible to electrical interference from high-current cables powering the weapon and drive motors. En route, the signal cables away from high-current wires whenever possible to mitigate this.
  • Loose Connections: The vibrations and impacts of competition can cause connections and fastenings to loosen over time. Regularly checking all connections between fights helps prevent malfunctions.

By following these guidelines and fostering a culture of safety and preparedness, student robotics teams can ensure a rewarding and successful robot combat competition experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Prioritize safety in the pits by establishing clear guidelines and using cradles for robot maintenance.
  • Communicate with event organizers regarding student participation to secure adequate pit space.
  • Pack essential tools, food, and drinks for the team.
  • Familiarize yourself with LiPo battery safety regulations.
  • Implement preventative maintenance measures like thread lock and post-fight inspections.
  • Be prepared to troubleshoot common issues like low power supply, radio signal problems, and loose connections.
  • By carefully preparing and addressing potential challenges, student robotics teams can maximize their learning and enjoyment at robot combat competitions.