Robotics with Jessie Huffman

Since working at CLC this summer, I’ve had a very busy, but fun semester at college. One of my most interesting classes was called Mechatronics, which is our electrical engineering course for mechanical engineers. Essentially, we learned a lot about circuits and then got to build robots for competition as our final project.

In the competition, the field was split into a yellow and a blue side. One robot would start on each side. Once you put the robot down, it had to function entirely independently. There were also 20 wooden, 1 in cubes scattered around the board. At the end of one minute, the robot whose side had fewer blocks on it won. If you’ve ever played the game “messy backyard” it’s very similar. There were a few other rules regarding the size of the robot and things we could and could not do, but that was the gist of it.

Our main strategy was to create a robot that could eat the blocks and then go take a nap on the other side of the field. We took inspiration from college students everywhere who love to eat and nap. We also really wanted to focus on simplicity because we only had a short period of time to get the robot up and running. We also named our robot “Baby” because we were so proud of him when he finally learned to “walk.”

Our robot’s chassis was made out of laser cut acrylic pieces that formed a box which was missing its bottom and front sides. All of the circuitry was mounted on top of the chassis. The motors ran on two independent H-bridge circuits and the sensors parsed information through an Arduino microcontroller which we programmed in C. Our sensors were a color sensor, so that the robot could tell which side of the field it was on, and two QTIs which allowed the robot to read black and white. Since the borders of the field were black, the QTIs were pretty important.

Our main difficulties came from the sensors not performing as we expected and from assembling the code, which was more complex than we had anticipated. In the end though, after a couple late nights, our robot worked well enough to make it to the quarter finals of the competition, which had about 50 robots in it.

This was hands down the most interesting school project I’ve worked on and I learned a lot about circuits and programming as I helped build this cute little robot.

Jessie Huffman, 19, is a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Mechanical Engineering