Banshee Zamboni

An adventure in robotics by:

David Broniatowski ('04, XVI)

Michael Liu (G, VI)

Benazeer Noorani ('04, VI)



The adventure began with a zephyr:

Authentic Personal message at 14:09:34 on Fri Nov 11 2002

From: Benazeer S Noorani <benazeer> on VICE-GRIPS.MIT.EDU

To: sabrevln@ATHENA.MIT.EDU

yo, 6.270 lottery deadline is in a few hours. want to be on my team?

Months later, after hours of arguments, laughter, and frustration we had a functional (well, okay, semi-functional) robot to our names. Along the way we learned that lego is one of the most annoying building materials known to man, that microswitches hate us, that solder smells horrible, and that shrinkwrap can be used as black market currency.

The Banshee Zamboni

We learned quite a bit about how to work on a large project, as well as how not to go about working on a large project. Over the course of the month we worked out problems of communication and scheduling, as well as technical problems, like how on earth we were going to fit all of those wires, sensors, batteries, and motors on our little lego 'bot.

We started the month quite optimistic: we were going to build the best robot in the class. It would be quick and fast and powerful; our strategy was to grab several of our balls, zip on down to the cup, remove any opposing balls that might be there, place ours in the cup, and still carrying one or two of our balls go back to the middle plateau for anywhere from four to six points.

As the weeks went on, however, our optimism faded. Once the structure of the robot was built, we realized that the mechanism to remove a ball from the cup had to be different from the mechanism used to place a ball in the cup. We soon realized that we were trying to bite off more than we could chew. Soon we were just trying to get our robot to reliably climb to the top plateau, id one of our own balls, and come back to center.

Eventually, we had a robot that was able to score one point. We qualified for the competition (admittedly, after we sufferred a double loss in Round 1 of the competition). We worked tirelessly to tweak our robot into being more reliable. By the time impounding rolled around, we had a complete robot.

Lego-man on the Zamboni

We strode confidently into 26-100 on Thursday, convinced that our robot would win. (Okay, so maybe we weren't that confident, but we knew it would at least do something.) Our team was called, and we placed the Screaming Zamboni on the table. The start light flashed and our robot started. . .

. . . spinning in circles?

Sixty long and embarrassing seconds later, we were sitting in the audience, conducting a post mortem on our robot. After painstakingly removing and examining each component, we discovered the most likely source of error. Overnight, a single connection to a bump sensor had broken, causing the robot to always believe that it was hitting a wall. Sadly, this connection was under a layer of electrical tape, so we couldn't have seen it before the round.

Sadder and wiser, we left, consoled by the knowledge that we had built a good robot and learned several valuable lessons along the way.