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Mike Rowe and Mobile Robotics at SkillsUSA!

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SkillsUSA is calling this years National Leadership and Skills Conference the best ever – and we would have to agree!

This year, Intelitek’s Automated Manufacturing Technology contest was made a closer replication of the industrial environment. Teams created virtual parts with our CNCMotion software before moving on to the hands-on production with our ProMill 8000. This modification to the contest received great feedback from the competitors and advisors.

The Robotics and Automation contest also ran smoothly again this year with the Puerto Rico team earning the High School Gold Medal and North Arkansas College earning the Post Secondary Championship.

At the Mobile Robotics field, we received a terrific surprise when Mike Rowe, a perennial supporter of CTE and SkillsUSA (also of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” fame), visited the Mobile Robotics competition!

Trevor Pope, Intelitek’s Product Manager and Mobile Robotics competition committee member spent over an hour with Mr. Rowe in the Mobile Robotics contest area showing him what we do. Along with help from RECF, we built him a robot and created a mini competition against the Massachusetts team, which uses EasyC. Mike named the robot “Micro / Macro” and autographed the shielding.
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Best yet, Intelitek will be featured on Mike Rowe’s new CNN show “Somebody’s Gotta Do It“! The program is expected to air on CNN in October. This will provide extensive publicity to Intelitek’s REC program and EasyC on a national news network!

Working with Mr. Rowe at SkillUSA was great fun, and were glad to be a part of the work he does in creating awareness of the awesome opportunities that exist for students in career and technology education!
See our Facebook page for more pictures!


VEX Skyrise – Lessons from Team 1103!

VEX Round Up Champion Team 1103 – Compound Chain Lifting Mechanism

With the release of the 2014 VEX SkyRise challenge , mechanisms and strategies for lifting are a hot topic among potential competitors! We have fielded many inquiries about the lifting mechanism from Team 1103’s robot which won the 2010 championship. 1103 is one of the most successful VEX robot designs and lifting mechanisms ever created! No doubt there are some excellent lessons and principles in the design of the 1103 robot that could apply to Skyrise.

Vex Team 1103 robot

Team 1103 is a rarity – a one man team. Joshua Wade – whom we interviewed in 2011 – is the sole team member. Team 1103 has won several regional contests and awards including the 2010 VEX robotics Programming Skills Challenge World Champion and the 2011 Vex Robotics National Champion for the 2010-2011 Round Up season.

Design

The 1103 robot uses a compound chained linear slide lifting mechanism reaching 40″ high. The base of the claw lifts to 23″ off the ground. Principles of this lifting design as well as other lifting concepts are available in Intelitek’s Robotics Engineering Curriculum (REC 2 Unit 11 – Lift Systems).

The purely vertical multiple-stage lift uses 17.5″ slides cut to 15″ and operates using a total of six 269 motors coupled in three sets of two motors. Each motor is linked to a single output shaft with a 1:1 ratio.
REC 1 Unit 3 – Gears and Gear Trains explains the physics principles involved in designing gears and gear trains. The output gearing is reduced with 2 sets of 1-1.5 reductions using 12, 18 and 24-toothed cogs. These motors and gears provide enough power to lift the entire robot off the ground.

VEX Team 1103 robot lift mechanism

1103 motors, cogs and chain drive

Programming

The exceptional programming was performed using Intelitek’s EasyC V4 for Cortex programming software. The intuitive environment of EasyC allows users to quickly learn skills needed to become an advanced programmer.

The 1103 robot program utilizes PID control giving the ability to hold the lifting mechanism using feedback from a quadrature encoder and limit switch which control the position of the lift. Wade wrote the program using the easyC sample file “PID Interrupt Service Routine” modified for the quadrature encoder. PID control loops hold the arm position at six different increments giving the operator quick and easy points to maintain elevation of the arm and hold the ring pick up position. This delivers the ability to score (and de-score) on both the floor weeble goals and wall goal posts, offering excellent application for the Skyrise challenge!

Team 1103 is a great example of the unlimited potential students have when engaged and motivated by their educational environment. The success shows that competitive robotics is the means of providing that environment for many more students.

You can check out the 1103 robot in person at our upcoming events, including the SkillsUSA National Championship June 25th and 26th in Kansas City, Mo!

Get your free trial! A full-featured 7-day trial of easyC V4 for Cortex is available here!

Try easyC!


SkillsNH Students set Sights on National Competition

March 14th kicked off this year’s annual SkillsUSA NH State Skills and Leadership conference, wherein students competed for the title of best-in-state across 30 events related to technical, skilled, and service occupations. We were proud to host the Automated Manufacturing Technology (AMT) competition at our Manchester, NH, headquarters on March 21st. It is always rewarding to see firsthand students fully engaged in their education, involved in a program that truly makes a difference in their lives. Andrew Clark, Alec Lemelin and Jacob Paradis from the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center at Spaulding High School in Rochester, NH, won gold at this years event. On to on Kansas City for the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference!

The Skills competitions convey the value of collaboration and teamwork in a tangible way. Communicating, defining roles, managing time – all these are part of the process in competitive events, and students realize the value in a more concrete manner that through conceptual instruction.

To see these students succeeding, thriving, and setting goals in such an educational environment demonstrates how effective competitive events are in helping students reach their potential by delivering tangible job-ready, college-ready skills.

In the process, we also help to bridge the skills gap in the workforce even in some of the hardest to fill positions! More on that phenomenon in a later post. For now, we simply tip our hat to the great SkillsUSA students competing over the past month, and offer our thanks for the reminder of why all of us at Intelitek are so proud to do what we do in support of education!


EasyC makes a strong showing at VEX Regional Championship

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Excitement is building for the VEX Robotics World Championship in April, with over 9600 VEX teams around the world participating in over 700 events this season already!

This past weekend marked the wrap-up of the State and Regional Championships, in which teams qualify for the World Championship. The New England HS Regional Championship for New England (MA, RI, NH, VT) was held in Worcester, MA on March 1st and 2nd, 2014.

The champions:

  • Team 40A – Canned Ham Trinity Robotics – Manchester, NH
  • Team 40F – Déjà vu – Trinity Robotics – Manchester, NH
  • Team 44 – Green Egg Robotics – Oakham, MA

All three champions possessed one common attribute: they used EasyC to program their robots! In addition, Team 44 Green Egg Robotics pulled in the Excellence award and the Robot Skills award!

Congratulations to all competitors – and see you at Worlds!


The CTSO Model for STEM Programs

SkillsUSA AMT Competition

The Role of Career and Technical Student Organizations in Providing STEM Skills

Last week the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) released CTE Is Your STEM Strategy, a study of the value of CTE programs as the foundation for an overall STEM strategy.

One specific element the study highlights is Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). As the report mentions:

“CTSOs, such as SkillsUSA provide skills-based competitions for students…based largely on students’ abilities to work individually or in teams to solve problems and present projects to judges from industry and education. …They clearly support student mastery of the “STEM competencies,” as many problem- or project-based learning experiences do.”

In this way, CTSOs deliver some of the most important elements for successful STEM programs: engaging industry to guide the delivery of relevant skills and offering “true contextualized learning within the context of a specific industry or career pathway”.

As Julie Kantor of STEMConnector wrote recently in the Huffington Post: “The conference is filled also with corporations smart enough to get in the door early and meet the best and brightest of our country. These kids all come out of high school with a TANGIBLE SKILL.”

One example of success came in the 2013 SkillsUSA competition. Girls from Spaulding High School in Rochester, New Hampshire clinched gold at the National SkillsUSA Competition in Missouri, earning the title as the first all-female team to win the competition. The trio competed against high school students from all 49 other U.S. states to take home the medal in Automated Manufacturing Technology contest, which evaluates teams for employment in the integrated manufacturing technology fields of computer aided drafting/design (CAD), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer numerical controlled machining (CNC). Team member Jackie McNally constructed the parts’ geometry in CAD, while Naomie Clark, the CAM operator, generated the tool paths and Ali Trueworthy was responsible for CNC set-up and machining.

The Rochester girls spent two years in STEM classes at the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center under teacher and adviser David Foote. This academic program combined with the experiences in SkillsUSA helped the succeed in this year’s national competition. They insist that the key to their success is not just the technical skills, but collaboration — working together rather than as separate contributors.

All three girls are now pursuing engineering degrees – an excellent outcome that any STEM program would be proud to achieve!

This is just one example among the 5,900 students who competed in the 2013 SkillsUSA nationals! All of these participants no doubt obtained an enhanced educational experience.

Many new STEM initiatives are gaining momentum and funding, but lacking guidance at the implementation stage. Proven and successful CTSOs like SKillsUSA provide an excellent model to follow. Participation bolsters interest in STEM, while delivering relevant technical skills as well as leadership and problem-solving skills so valuable in any career field!