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Purdue College of Technology Enhances Curriculum with Competition

Extra-curricular robotics challenge enhances cross-disciplinary curriculum at Purdue University

Purdue Kokomo

What happens when you take a little inspiration mixed with some competitive challenge, add some vendor support, then toss in some motivated students? It’s a recipe for success in engineering programs as proven by Purdue College of Technology Kokomo. What started off as an extra-curricular robotics challenge has evolved into a full-blown multidisciplinary engineering course that will debut this fall.

A Challenge for Faculty and Students

The seeds of this initiative were planted when members of Purdue Kokomo attended an ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) conference. A demo at the conference gave the faculty the idea to design a student activity based on a robotics football contest.

They discussed the idea with Paul Copioli, President of VEX. Realizing the potential of the idea, VEX contributed a variety of Vex parts to help initiate the project. Thus the challenge was issued between Purdue College of Technology Kokomo and University of Notre Dame to design and build a team of football-playing robots and compete in an NFL style “combine”.

The combine would test specific robotic “skills” by means of individual events, testing the robot speed, agility, strength and robustness. The skill events would be followed by the teams competing in a scrimmage designed after American football.

The challenge appealed to students on various degree pathways, including Computer and Information Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Engineering Technology, and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

The challenge would be achieved using the VEX robotics platform and EasyC programming software as tools. Students held weekly meetings to discuss designs. They were required to develop design specifications and justifications for the design they chose. After a couple of months of training and design meetings, the students completed a working prototype.

Purdue Kokomo Football Prototype

Game Day

The big event was held at the University of Notre Dame’s Joyce Center in April 2014. Five teams participated: Purdue-Kokomo, The U.S. Naval Academy, University of Notre Dame, Purdue-Calumet, and Purdue-South Bend.

Purdue Kokomo Football Combine

Purdue-Kokomo won both the speed and the agility tests, while Navy won the strength test. The scrimmage featured Purdue-Kokomo and Navy teamed up against Notre Dame, with the Kokomo/Navy team defeating Notre Dame 14-0.

Purdue Kokomo Football Speedtest

Read the game story at Purdue website!

A Course is Born

The real winners resulting from the event were the current and future students at Purdue. Since this extracurricular activity was so successful, it has given birth to an entirely new class: “Design of Robotic Systems”. This class will help prepare students for the activity by covering the design principles involved. Topics will include designing mobile robots to accomplish specified performance objectives, developing robotic subsystems, and robotic programming. Throughout the course, students learn the system development process, including planning, documentation, prototyping, testing, and analysis.

The course will be taught by faculty from all four academic areas and will be offered in fall of 2014. This is an excellent example of the value of extra-curricular activities in motivating students and enabling them to take ownership of their educational experience.



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!


EasyC v4 Update

easyC update

We are happy to announce the latest update to EasyC®!

EasyC v4 for VEX Robotics now delivers event more usability and compatibility with VEXnet 2.0! The update is free to all licensed users of easyC v4!

Improved Features

    • Compatibility with VEXnet firmware upgrade utility v4.1.0 and mastercode v4.2 for Joystick and Cortex
    • System Info shows wireless connection method: VEXnet 1.0 or VEXnet 2.
    • EasyC VEX System Info Radio firmware verification
    • Four new Smart Tasks -> Robot Driving easyC function blocks for curve driving
      • Drive Curve
      • Drive Curve – Time Control
      • Drive Curve Degrees (for Smart Motors)
      • Drive Curve Rotations (for Smart Motors)
    • New Ultrasonic sensor function block returns distance in centimeters and inches
    • Various other enhancements

Learn more about EasyC here!

Upgrade now! Visit the EasyC update page to start taking advantage of these new features!

Upgrade now!


You can also update from the EasyC window: Click Help > Check for Updates.


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!


Intelitek and Boy Scouts Partner to Promote STEM Education

  • Using EasyC for the Boy Scouts Programming Merit Badge
  • Students using EasyC to complete Programming Badge

New Robotic Programming Merit Badge generates a groundswell of excitement for STEM!

With the motto “Be Prepared”, Boy Scouts of America are devoted to helping youths become tomorrow’s leaders. Part of that effort includes over 130 Merit Badges that Scouts can earn in topics from business to backpacking. Confirming the trend that new skills are required for success in tomorrow’s world, one of the newest available badges is the Programming badge, preparing boys for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.”

“Last century, camping was an essential survival skill,” noted Matt Myers, of the Boy Scouts of America STEM initiative, “We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.” The Boy Scouts of America introduced the new badge that allows scouts to learn how programming makes digital devices useful and fun, thus generating more interest in STEM among youths. To earn the badge, scouts write three programs in three programming languages for three different industrial applications, including the web, games, embedded controls, factory automation, and more. This allows the scouts to see how real programming is used in the workplace.

Boy Scouts Programming Badge

At the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, the response to the Programming Badge revealed the untapped interest in STEM fields. Over 800 scouts completed the programming portion of the badge – the only merit badge that had a line of kids waiting to get in all day long! Scouts from 49 of the 50 states and from overseas waited as long as 2 to 3 hours to work on the programming badge, which also has requirements in the areas of Safety, History and Careers. In the booth at the Jamboree scouts programmed VEX robotics arms using Intelitek’s easyC programming software.

This initiative demonstrates the high demand for robotics skills among youths. It also shows the success that can be had when educational opportunities are made available to youths: increased enthusiasm and awareness of opportunities in STEM. These are key to fulfilling students’ potential and opening up new pathways to career and lifelong success!

Learn more about the Programming merit badge!


VEX World Champion Interview: Joshua Wade

One of the most successful Vex Robotics Competition teams ever has a unique aspect – it has only one member. Joshua Wade, from Orwell, OH, the sole member of Team 1103, went on to become 2010 Vex Robotics Programming Skills Challenge World Champion and the 2011 Vex Robotics National Champion.

What helped Josh become so successful? One of the tools in Joshua’s arsenal was easyC, Intelitek’s intuitive robotic programming software. With it he accomplished some exceptional robotic programming feats. We asked Josh to give us his perspective on his accomplishments.

What got you interested in VEX Robotics?
Even at a very young age, I had an interest in robotics and engineering. In 2006, when I was 12 years old, my Dad bought me an original VEX starter kit for Christmas. I can say without a doubt that it was the best Christmas present I ever received. Over the next few years I received several additional VEX kits and spent a great deal of time programming the hobbyist robots that I designed.

How did you develop your programming skills?
When I was 14, having worked with VEX robots for about a year, I was introduced to programming VEX robots. At that time, programming in general was completely new to me. I found easyC to be very user-friendly and quickly learned how to write basic programs. Though programming always came very naturally to me, I spent a great deal of time working with easyC before I was able to write more advanced programs.

How did you come up with your design? What were some other ideas you had?
Before starting on my 2010-2011 robot, I spent many long hours at the drawing board considering various design concepts. Early on I knew that I wanted a purely-vertical lifting mechanism. I did consider using a scissor
lift but later rejected that idea in favor of the chained linear slide lift that I had thought of following the 2010 VRC World Championships.

Because I was very interested in the two skills challenges, particularly the Programming Skills, a claw seemed like the best choice for actually manipulating the tubes. The inspiration for the passive high hanging mechanism actually came from rock climbing equipment. I needed a hook that would easily attach to the side of the Ladder even if the base of the robot was imperfectly positioned. The idea to tilt the lift mechanism using pneumatic pistons came after seeing a similar tilting mechanism on a forklift.

How much time did you spend working on your robot?
I began building my VEX Round Up robot in August of 2010. Throughout the competition season I worked 30-40 hours a week building, programming and practicing with the robot. By April of 2011, I had logged roughly 1200 hours.

What are your plans for the future?
In college I would like to take mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science. Right now I am considering Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. After college I plan to go into robotics.

As the sole member of one of the most successful VRC teams ever, what advice do you have for other students who participate in the program?
I feel that the most important advice I can give to another is to work hard and be committed. To quote Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

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Team 1103 is a great example of the unlimited potential students have when engaged and motivated by their educational environment. Joshua’s success also shows that competitive robotics is an excellent way to provide that environment for more students!