These future robotics engineers are a ‘prime’ example of where technology is headed.
IvyWarriors — an eight-member robotics team — is on its way to the Florida FTC State Championship, set for March 4 and March 5 at the AdventHealth Fieldhouse in Winter Haven.
There, they will face 48 other teams from across Florida in a quest to win a spot to compete in April, at the FIRST World Festival in Houston, Texas.
The acronym FIRST is a shortened version of, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. It is the nonprofit that hosts the FTC, or First Tech Competition.
IvyWarriors advanced to the state tournament by winning first place among a field of 16 teams at the Tampa Bay ROBOT League Championship in early February in Lakeland.
The team is made up of Sahil Vaswani, Rohil Agarwal, Vineet Sharma, Nikhil Padi, Neil Babu, Ananth Kutuva, Joshua Selvan and Avaneesh Venkatesh.
Team coaches are Abhay Vaswani and Tamil Gurusamy, and there are other mentors, too.
IvyWarriors, based in Odessa, is made up of students from Berkeley Preparatory; Sunlake, Hillsborough and Strawberry Crest high schools; and the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) at Land O’ Lakes and Robinson high schools.
Rohil Argarwarl, the team’s lead programmer, described how the competition works.
“Moving on round to round is just like a soccer or football tournament,” said Argarwarl, a sophomore in the IB program at Land O’ Lakes High.
The difference, he explained, is that these teams work with other teams.
The teams are randomly paired, in a two versus two format, which encourages them to work with other teams, which FIRST calls ‘Co-opertiation.’
The teams taking part in designing, building and coding robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. Teams work on developing an autonomous and driver-controllable robot to complete missions on a thematic playing field.
Each season has a different theme and this year it is Freight Frenzy. Simply put, it involves challenging the players to build a robot that eventually will be used to help shipping and supply chain warehouses, such as Amazon, to be more efficient in sorting and delivering packages.
“(FIRST) give(s) you the ways on how you score with your robot,” Land O’ Lakes IB junior Sahil Vaswani explained, “and then they leave you to build and code your robot and have enough driver practice in order to score.”
So, through painstaking trial and error and outside-the-box thinking, the IvyWarriors created their autonomous and remote-controlled bot, Challenger. Resembling a mix between Rector and Lego sets, Challenger is a fully functional delivery robot. It can lift scaled packages to put on shelves and can operate a conveyor belt to sort packages.
“This is the second version,” Vaswani said. “Challenger 2.0, really. We had to make modifications on frame and wheel size.”
In the competition, the robot must be completely programmed to do this for the first 30 seconds of the allotted time, meaning the IvyWarriors have to build a code to ensure Challenger does its job autonomously.
For the next two minutes, IvyWarriors can control it remotely with controllers that look like they were directly taken from a gaming system.
The IvyWarriors set about building their bot back in September through various brainstorming sessions, many involving pros-and-cons lists, until they were certain it was the right design.
“One of the biggest issues we had was going over barriers (that are in the competition area),” Agarwal said. “We had to keep things like that in mind, but also had to make sure our code is easy to read by basically anyone and you have to develop that from the roots up.”
Other obstacles that stood in the IvyWarriors’ way during the build process was making sure the motors were the right torque, especially on the crane and the wheel that would bring the box onto the crane, installing wheels that would make Challenger the most mobile — this lead to them installing mecanum wheels that allows Challenger to make 360-degree moves.
“And now,” Agarwal said, “almost all robots in warehouses will have those.”
“During our season, we try to find many solutions to make it more mobile and faster, especially with the barriers,” Sunlake sophomore Nikhil Padi added. “It was really about finding the right motors to go with the right wheels, that way it would move the way we wanted, especially in the autonomous section.”
Their teamwork and ingenuity paid off, and now it is time to be tested on a bigger stage.
“IvyWarriors are ready to fight like warriors and are extremely grateful for the opportunity and knowledge that they have gained by participating in FIRST,” coach Abhay, a software engineer, said. “It is organizations like FIRST that are driving STEM passions across the globe, and educating students on the world of engineering and robotics.”
Like their competitors, the IvyWarriors want their team’s robotic moves to take them to nationals.
But the value of being part of the team goes beyond competing, Agarwarl said.
“All of us have a passion for engineering and robotics, but we all also love driving (Challenger) around!” he said.
Published March 02, 2022