E D U B O T S
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS
Building A ChampBot & Quadcopter for Vermont’s Champlain Mini Maker Faire, by Dakota Braun
Have you ever been interested in robotics? Or art? Or DIY projects? Then the Mini Maker Faire is the place to go! This is where hundreds of makers present their cool, creative projects. Makers bring the tools of their trade, such as 3-D printers, sewing machines, VR goggles, and woodworking tools. Some maker booths even offer driving experiences with RC cars, quadcopters, RC planes, and much more.
A “Maker” is a person who creates. The creations range from DIY projects to rethinking a new way of completing an old task. Makers’ creations include Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs), quadcopters for competitions, and battling robots. Makers also come to showcase their businesses, such as local colleges and museums. The Mini Makers Faire is a venue for people all around the state to present their creations to a large audience.
The Mini Maker Faire is also a great place for robotics teams, such as FIRST Lego League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) to show their newest designs for the competition season. A component of FIRST competitions is to share what the teams are working on and raise awareness so others interested in robotics can join a local team. These competitions encourage kids to be creative and collaborative while working with robotics.
Many Makers competed in this year’s ChampBot Challenge, made up of the same challenges as last year. In the last issue of EduBots, I explained that the name ChampBot comes from the myth about the Lake Champlain monster, called “Champ.” Like the Loch Ness monster, he’s very elusive.
This year there were 13 teams, which was double the number of competitors from the previous year. This challenge consists of many obstacles, such as a course in the water around buoys, a square made from PVC where the robots drop a buoy, a target to be lit on fire, and finally, they must fully submerge and then head back to the starting line. Similarly to last year, our bot consisted of many parts found in hardware stores. The inner main components of our ChampBot were housed in an 8”x16” plastic box. This box was installed in the middle of our bot between the front and back flippers. This was the heaviest part of the robot, weighing in at five pounds. It included the remote receiver, batteries, seven servos, and some sponges to suck up any water that leaked into the container. We also had a rubber seal around the box lid to ensure the components stayed dry. The main propulsion of our Champ was six bilge pumps that we hacked: we removed the cover, took out the impeller, and added larger propellers, as well as a repurposed trolling motor for speed. The bilge pumps were hardwired to mechanical switches that were triggered by the receiver. We used four bilge pumps to submerge the bot, and another two to make turns. The trolling motor was for forward or backward movements.
The day of the challenge was very windy, which made high waves in the bay. We constructed our robot to rest low in the water. This was not a good build, given the waves on that day. Our component box filled with water when the waves broke over the top it short-circuited our components. There was only one bilge motor working at the end, making the bot impossible to bring back to shore, as it moved only in circles. Two of our team members had to swim out to retrieve our Champ.
My family also decided to compete in this year’s Makers Faire Quadcopter Competition. This challenge was to buy or build a quadcopter to fly a course. The quadcopter course was basically a huge figure eight in a field with obstacles, such as a low bridge, trees, and bushes. There were 20 other quadcopters at this competition. They ranged in size from about a foot to as small as a few inches. We built our quadcopter from scratch. We used our 3-D printer to create four wings and several layered body panels. We also bought a kit of components, including four propellers, four motors, an IR seeker for frequency of the remote, and a lightweight battery. We used a model airplane remote from the ChampBot to control the quadcopter. When we finished it was about 10 inches long. As it was our first attempt with the software, it was not set up properly and it flipped over and broke the frame the night before the competition. Unfortunately, we could not compete. We worked very hard and were the only Makers there to build a quadcopter from scratch. It was challenging and we were happy to get as far as we had.
These are just a few of the events that take place at the Mini Maker Faire. The Faire is open to anyone and everyone, so come by and visit, or even better¾make something for it! For more information, visit www.champlainmakerfaire.com