What do you do when you've finished high school early? Build some robots, of course
Cabot Education Centre students Dylan Hines and Jacob Fitzgerald finished their required coursework for high school graduation last fall, but the quest to learn new things continued.
The pair began building autonomous robots in their spare time during their final semester. With ongoing encouragement from Cabot teachers Leo Donovan and Isaac “Ike” Batten, they competed at Acadia University’s 13th Annual Robotics Programming Championships in February, earning them a spot at last week’s World Robofest Championships in Southfield, Michigan.
“They coached us really well,” said Hines in the days leading up to the event as they were putting the final touches on their robots. “As Leo would say, he threw us in the deep end of the pool so we could figure it out ourselves.”
“They encouraged us to explore it,” added Fitzgerald. “They don’t know a tonne about it themselves. They really helped us on how to learn it and they really encouraged us. They got us into a good work schedule too.”
With sights set on the Robofest World Championships, they began designing, constructing, and coding two robots just over a month ago using EV3 Lego Software Program. They worked steadily on the project three to four hours per day, increasing to four to five hours per day in the week leading up to the competition.
“It’s basically a programmed robot,” said Hines. “You put code into the computer and you tell it what to do. It’s very automated, you don’t control it with a controller or a phone or anything. It does it on its own. You download the software program on to the robot and the robot does it for you.”
They named their creations “Wild Allen” and “Bonesaw”.
Wild Allen competed in the Classic Bottle Sumo Division. In this event, the robot attempts be the first to intentionally push a bottle off the table or be the last robot remaining on the table.
The pair made it to the semi-finals of the Classic Bottle Sumo Division, tying for 3rd place out of 19 teams. They placed the best out of all four teams from Canada, beating out the number one Canadian team in the quarterfinals.
“The boys showed great resourcefulness and calm under pressure in making drastic last-minute adjustments so their robot could meet the 1 kg weight requirement,” said Batten.
Hines and Fitzgerald entered Bonesaw into the Game Division event. In this event, the robot had under two minutes to a) autonomously collect tennis balls and put them into a box, and b) move empty bottles off the table.
“Dylan and Jacob struggled with technical issues with their robot in the first round,” wrote Donovan. “But then they scored their best-ever single round score in their final run. Unfortunately, both runs counted which left the boys out of the trophy hunt for this competition.”
In September, Hines is set to attend criminology at St. Mary’s University while Fitzgerald is off to study computer science at Dalhousie.
Cabot Education Centre recent graduates Jacob Fitzgerald (left) and Dylan Hines with their hand-built robots “Wild Allen” (left) and “Bonesaw” (right) at the Robofest 2018 World Championship at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan.