Workin’ on the Chef ...
36 SERVO 07.2010
Joe and I have known each other for years, and
live a short drive apart. Jason, on the other hand, is a
friend from Cal Poly Pomona whom we met the fall
of 2009. Being that he lives six hours away from us,
Jason had very limited involvement in the development of our main robot — Disgruntled Chef — so he
focused instead on our LEGO entries.
After deciding how many events we wanted to
compete in — and whether or not we'd actually have
a dedicated group of people working on the project
— we had about six weeks to go "from bits to bots."
At the end of those six weeks was RoboGames, and
as it came down to crunch time it became painfully
apparent that we had spent too much time at the
end of our RoboGames prep, and not enough at the
beginning, which brings us to our first lesson ...
Lesson 1: Schedule
Firstly, let me say that EVERYONE makes this mistake to some extent at some point. Not scheduling
enough workshop time is an easy trap to fall into. It
comes down to setting and abiding by your own
deadlines, so that instead of one mad rush to get
things finished right before game day, you have several smaller rushes many days in advance. It's very easy
to misjudge how long any given task will take, and
admittedly, we would have benefitted from setting a
schedule for ourselves. To put it simply, we didn't
spend enough time in the month or so before
RoboGames that we had to work on our bots, and
instead we left lots of work to the last minute.
Though it wasn't a fatal mistake, it certainly was a
About 1-1/2 weeks before RoboGames, our
ComBot "Disgruntled Chef" was drivable, despite
needing a lot more work to be combat-ready. At this
point, we determined that I would be Chef's driver at
the competition. It was wise to make that decision
then because we only had one set of batteries, and
could only charge and recharge them so many times
in the days we had left. This “logic” brought us to
Lesson 2: Practice!
This is particularly pertinent to ComBots. If you're
competing in an event where you have to remotely
and precisely control a vehicle moving at high speeds,
practice is key. If your team has more than one member, choose a "driver" well ahead of time, and make
sure they practice as much as possible. Leading up to
RoboGames, I was driving our 30-pound Disgruntled
Chef 2-3 times a day most days, in about 15 minute
intervals (that's about how long it took to run the batteries down). That driving practice really showed —
and we'll certainly build on that success at our next