Ex Students celebrate robotic success

A team of Collyer's students made up of mainly ex-THS students, has recently achieved incredible success at the 2018 Robocon competition. You can read their account below:

In mid-April, the Collyer’s Robotics Team, Incredibots, achieved third place at the Robocon 2018 competition with their robot – Dash.

Over the past six months, teams from across the country, have been working to design, build and code an autonomous robot, to enter the competition hosted by Hills Road Sixth Form, Cambridge. This year’s challenge, Bucket Bonanza, required the robots to deposit cardboard boxes into scoring zones or lift them into their team’s bucket for bonus points, within a three-minute match.

After working tirelessly over the Easter holidays, the weekend of the competition finally arrived. Minibuses filled the car park, packed with electronics and excitable teenagers; the atmosphere was electric. Following frantic final adjustments, every robot had to undergo a rigorous safety inspection. It took the Collyer’s team three attempts to get Dash through the inspection because of untidy cables and sharp edges. Sorting these out made the robot look far more dashing! The morning only got more hectic once the league began.

In the first couple of matches, the team had their fair share of problems to solve. The biggest of which was the wall… Dash didn’t see it coming in the first match, driving into it and proceeded to get stuck on his back. The team was keen to code their way out of this problem. Unfortunately, in the second match, Dash broke the arms he used to pick up boxes, which required some searching for spare parts and plenty of hot glue.

Once these problems had been solved, the team began to dash up the leaderboard. Placing three boxes in their bucket in the third round got them 15 points and a win under their belt. The team’s success only grew throughout the first day. In the next round Dash was desperately close to scoring another 15 points, until the time ran out moments before he was able to land the third box in the bucket. By the end day one, Dash had developed a reputation for pilfering boxes off other robots but despite their robot’s dark side, Team Incredibots had become well-liked by other teams. They also finished the day in second place on the leaderboard.

The Collyer’s students then checked into their accommodation before joining the Hills Road Team, for a delicious buffet dinner in Cambridge. Thank you to the judges for buying drinks! The meal was a great chance to socialise with the host team and make some new friends.The tradition at sixth form robotics competitions is to stay up all night working on the robot. This competition was no exception. Back at the youth hostel, Collyer’s met with the Haydon School team from North London to develop their robots and plan for the next day of matches.In the morning, the Collyer’s team dashed back to Hills Road, keen to test the changes they had made overnight. With the overall standard having increased tenfold since Saturday, Team Incredibots' changes were not enough to keep up with the competition, and they dropped a few places in the leaderboard. The team doubled down and tweaked the previous night’s changes enabling them to climb briefly into first place!

The pressure was on for all teams as the seeding matches ended and the knockouts began. Having finished second place in the seeding rounds, Dash landed a comfortable place in the semi-finals. Success here was critical; one mistake and the team would be sent home. The match was tense with no clear leader. In the end, Dash pulled ahead from the other teams to achieve a narrow victory in his semi-final.

There wasn't time to recharge batteries before the judges called the robots into the arena for the finals. The countdown begun for the last time - 3,2,1, start! As their robots charged into the arena, the teams sat by, powerless. One box into the bucket for Collyer's, neck and neck with the Hills Road robot. Another box was in Dash's mechanical arms. The team then watched helplessly as Dash turned back to return to the bucket but get the angle slightly wrong and drive into a wall with enough power to push himself backwards... Disaster – Dash was immobilised.

All hope was not lost for the Collyer's team though; Dash clung to this second box as it hung dangerously low above another team's scoring zone. Minutes felt like millennia. The buzzer brought a sharp end to the finals and the verdict was now in the hands of the judges. The decision was made. Dash still had the box in control. Third place was secured for Team Incredibots!

The Collyer's Robotics team would like to thank everyone involved for making the competition so exciting and, of course, educational! A special thanks to the Hills Road Team and their sponsors, without whom none of this would have been possible.

The Collyer's team is now preparing to represent the UK at an international competition in Guiyang City, China in July. Building and competing robots is an expensive task and we would only be able to do what we do with the kind support and donations from tech companies and generous individuals. If you are interested in supporting us in any way, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Diane Dowling, Head of Computer Science at Collyer's, for more information: dcd@collyers.ac.uk.

Written by Ex-Tanbridge House students and part of the Incredibots team Charlie Brooker and Anisha Wakefield

Image Gallery: