I am part of Girl Scouts Nor Cal and a Cadet from Milpitas team. I am in Rancho Middle school in 7th Grade. We were exploring STEM events and found about Vex Robotics which is hosted by Google and supported by Girl Scouts. I was fortunate to be part of a team from Las Altos middle schoolers. I am the only one from Milpitas.
Our journey started in September of 2017. It was a great learning yet fun filled experience. Our parents decided that they will drive us to Google twice a week for 3 hours each and will advise only. We have to build the robot, program it and keep writing everything in the Engineering Design Book so we know what we did, how we did and how to improve.
This year’s Vex theme was “In the Zone”. There is a zone set up and the robot has to pick up what is called as Mobile Goals and drop them at either a 20 or 10 or 5 point zone. In addition, the robot can also stack the cones either on Mobile Goals or specific Goal Posts. There are two alliances competing each time with two teams each. So in any given zone there will be four robots.
We started building the robot by discussing among ourselves and assigned roles and responsibilities to each team member. We also had help from Google Mentors, in case we needed some assistance. Our initial thought was to have a robot which can pick up and drop the mobile goals in to 20 and 10 point zones. In addition there are two modes to drive the robot. One is called Autonomous mode (mainly 15 secs) and the program has to drive the robot. Second one is Driver Control (1:45 mins) where some of us were driving it.
It was fairly new exposure for me to program the robot. My initial assignment was to help build the robot. It took some time for understanding how to use the various tools and finalize a design but we got it and became really good at it (Todd was the name we chose for our robot). Every tool that is needed was provided by Google. Each week we could see the incremental changes both to the robot and the program.
I became a team spokesperson wherein I needed to know about all aspects of the project including high level overview of programming, design and implementation of robot and game information along with roles and responsibilities of everyone in the team. This is super important because at the beginning of each tournament, judges ask various questions to the team spokesperson. The team that answers well and together will get points towards the awards.
In January of 2018 we had our first competition at Sacramento. We fared well and were qualified for Quarter finals. We were one of the team captains to pick up other teams for Alliance. We were rewarded with Design Award in that event and we felt we accomplished a big thing.
We modified our robot more by adding stacking function, in addition to mobile goal pick up, and got to the second event at Google in February. We did very well here as well and became alliance captains to pick other teams. We advanced to semi-finals. In this event we won the Excellence Award. We are ecstatic, because with these two awards we are selected for State Finals. According to Vex folks very few teams reached finals with in first three to four months of robotics journey.
As being one of the state finalists we attended the tournament in Vallejo in March. Like the previous events, we were chosen as one of the alliance captains. We advanced to quarter finals in the state event. That was a great experience since at the State level there are lots of middle and high school teams. We watched how others built their robots and learnt a lot on how we can design next version of our robot.
Finally end of April we had a final competition in Google, this time I drove the robot as well. Our team advanced to quarters, semis and finals and won the finals. What a way to end the robotics journey for the year. When I look back last few months of this journey I learnt a lot in programming, robot building, design principles, team work and more.
I am looking forward to further advance my knowledge of robotics and programming including sharing the knowledge with elementary kids who want to start the journey. We had great help from Google, Girl Scouts and Vex Robotics team, and we appreciate all the help that was provided and thank them.
Look forward to mentoring younger girls and continue my journey into robotics.