Twin Tweaks ...
slope accordingly. The track was designed so that
when pushed to its steepest, the ball would fly off
the hairpin turn and never make it back to the ball
carrier. If the track was pulled to its most gradual
slope, the ball would complete its journey, but at a
slow pace. Blue Steel’s self-imposed challenge was
to use feedback from speed sensors and ball counters to optimize the track – make it so the ball
could complete its journey as quickly as possible
without falling off. In four weeks, they were able
to complete this gargantuan task, and they had a
sculpture with programming so sophisticated it
might even give the Stingray a run for its money.
Team 4 was Magnum, consisting of Eric,
Javier, Daniel, and Cesa. Their sculpture included
diverging paths and a harrowing labyrinth. The
paths diverged by a ball tray that could change
position using a servomotor controlled by a button. The guys on Team Magnum also put their
newly-found AutoCAD skills to work by cutting out
a team logo on the Lasercamm.
Team 5 was We The Queens, with Rocio,
Carla, and Joana. Their sculpture featured a steep
slalom with a catching basket. Their sculpture also
included diverging paths; one was designed to
achieve high speed and the other took a more languid pace. The two paths converged before a
catching basket; the Queens aimed to create as
big a difference in ball speeds as possible to really
test the reaction of the catching basket. Despite
some trying times with the speed sensors and the
programming, the Queens completed their sculpture, and they successfully showcased a catching
basket with a huge range of motion.
Team 6 — comprised of Stephanie, Jennifer,
Su, and John — was simply Team 6, because they
were too ninja for a name. Their sculpture showcased a super cool catching basket that was manually controllable using a custom control box. The
ninjas of Team 6 wanted to create a catching basket that could move in both the x and y directions.
They cut out a mechanism that was a combination
of a rack and pinion and a scissor arm using fluo-
Dr. Nathan Delson
Dr. Raymond de Callafon
And all of the Cluster 2 alumni!
Special Thanks to
76 SERVO 01.2010
rescent green acrylic that matched the coolness
factor of the mechanism. To control the mechanism, the ninjas created their own control box
using two potentiometers with knobs as controls.
Moving trampolines created the uncertainty that
would test the ninja reflexes of anyone at the controls, but the responsive mechanism allowed even
the non-ninjas among us to save the yellow ball
from off-track oblivion.
All That Is Or Ever Was
Or Ever Will Be
The robotic sculptures were all a success, but
a real engineering project involves so much more
than the project itself – science is not performed
in a vacuum! In addition to building the sculptures
themselves, the COSMOS students also had to
construct a website and prepare an oral presentation. The designs of the sculptures themselves
needed to be supported by a plethora of analysis,
including physics calculations and mathematical
simulations. We were even able to have some fun
with a high speed camera, which was ostensibly
an analytical tool that allowed us to verify the
results of the simulations (even though it really
made us feel like we were on Mythbusters).
The websites and presentations challenged
the students to hone their communication skills,
because the greatest engineering solution in the
world isn’t great at all if you can’t explain it. One
of the best parts of the presentations was to see
the genuine sense of pride that everyone radiated.
Building a robotic sculpture with servos and sensors and programming may have seemed like an
insurmountable task at the beginning, but in four
weeks they built one. Plus they built a clock and
designed a website!
It was undeniably a challenging and fulfilling
time for everyone involved. After a barrage of
lectures and lab time, all of the students had
created something to be proud of. Perhaps the
best thing that everyone gleaned from COSMOS
was confidence. Robotics, science, and
engineering are all daunting fields which many
students may avoid in college because they can’t
imagine themselves being an engineer and solving
the tough problems day in and day out. Cluster 2
posed a tough problem, and every single student
came up with a creative solution that showed they
really can be engineers.
If this sounds like a great opportunity for you
or someone you know, check out more about
COSMOS online and consider submitting an application. The application period for the 2010 program is February 1st through March 15th. Who
knows ... it might just change your life. SV