Robotics debuts at World Skills in Finland

John Dobson, Chairman of Matrix TSL was in Helsinki last week for the World Skills regional competition. At the moment, Robotics is not an official World Skills event, but the Finnish have been trialling it as a possible event for the future.

This year a team from Jyväskylä Institute of Technology have created the event based on our very own Formula AllCode robot.

The 3-day event was attended by 7 students from the Institute, who undertook a range of tasks in programming and problem solving.

Day 1

The students were given an AllCode robot and tasked with tracing some simple geometric shapes to get them used to programming the buggy. They could choose any programming language they liked. 6 students used Flowcode and 1 student used the C programming language. Great use of the metal motors and encoders on the AllCode robots!

In the afternoon they competed in getting the robot to follow a black line on a 1.5m by 1.5m piece of paper (see below).

Day 2

On the second day, the students were given a 3D printed pen holder which attaches to the AllCode. They were then tasked with getting the robot to write the letters J O A onto individual sheets of paper. The students were given diagrams of each letter which had to be traced on paper.

In the afternoon, the students had to solve their first maze by use of the 8 IR sensors on the AllCode robot. In the arena there were 3 specially constructed mazes of around 1.5m by 1.5m. 1 maze was for practice. 2 mazes were for the competition and were situated in a stand with bright lights, overhead cameras and televisions showing the buggies in action to the watching crowd. This first maze problem was a fairly simple maze that could be solved using a ‘follow the left hand wall’ algorithm. Again students could choose their programming language. You can see students carrying out final tests, in the image below.

After the simple maze, students were given a much more difficult maze where the left hand wall algorithm does not solve the maze. For all maze tasks students were timed to the point where the maze was solved.

At the end of the second day students were given an X-Box controller and told about the final days challenge.

Day 3

In this last challenge students have to use the C# language to create a program that controlled the AllCode robot via Bluetooth using the x-box controller which plugs into the PC. This is quite a challenge. To help the students a little they were given some basic routines for Bluetooth and the controller. They worked late into the night: on the final day, the competition event started at 9am.

By 8:45am all the students were carrying out final tests with their programs and the hardware.

This final test was a combination of the students coding and their ‘driving’ ability. The key here is to create an algorithm that does not make the robot too responsive or twitchy.  Students are timed over 5 laps.

The exercise was then made harder: the maze was re-routed and lots of vertical wooden blocks were placed in the maze. On this second X-Box controller task students are penalised for each block that is knocked over.

These are Finland’s finest technical students. Whilst there is a winner on point all students have been impressive and everyone walks away with a prize, a great experience, a huge sense of satisfaction, and some new friends.

What a great competition.

To find out more about Formula AllCode, visit the Matrix website here.

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