Week 3: Observations from the Cargo Connect game board
Hear our thoughts on effective teams and some of our observations of the robot game board
My name is Riya Mehrotra, I’m a 7th grade at Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. I am currently a member of the FLL team #PandaPower, and will be working with Anika and Gabi to start #PandaPower Robotics. I’ve personally witnessed the power of #PandaPower and can’t wait to spread our knowledge and tricks to more teams!
While Anika and Gabi have aged out of the competition, I’m still an active member of the #PandaPower team this season. So I thought I would start our third post, with some observations of this year’s Cargo Connect game board.
A few observations: this year’s robot game board
Every year the robot game board looks completely different. Some years it’s filled with bright colors, others it’s very dull. Some years it has tasks everywhere making the board look more like a maze than anything, and sometimes it just looks empty with tasks scattered here and there. This year it looks like a mix of the two, we’ve got a good amount of tasks (17 total) on the board, but there’s a good amount of space to move around and solve each one.
We like to start off the season, before we build anything, by just assessing the board and trying to pick out what is going to be the hardest obstacle we are going to have to solve. Here are a few of our main observation’s we’ve made in the past week or so after seeing the board:
Routing challenge over mechanical challenge: Every year the robot game prioritizes one of two things 1) routing effectively (being able to get around the board quickly and accurately) or 2) difficult mechanical tasks (where the actual tasks are very hard to accomplish). For example, last season many teams struggled with the pull-up bar that required the team to lift the entire robot off the mat, this year there are a couple of difficult mechanical tasks like the large delivery and sorting center. But the way the board is laid out will require going back and forth multiple times quickly and efficiently. So we’ll prioritize routing in our upcoming posts!
Hardest mechanical task is Large Delivery: My guess is that placing the turbine and getting it to perfectly balance is going to be hard for two different reasons, 1) it’s a large, unwieldy piece so it’s hard to move around without banging into other things and 2) you have to get it in just the right position for it to stay balanced.
Most fun task is Sorting Center: I’m defining fun as “drawing out the most unique ways to solve the task”. Last year, flipping the tires had tons of variation. This year, I expect the most variation to be on the Sorting Center. I’ve never seen a task like this in past years - where the board can literally change between rounds. That means that either you need your robot to be able to detect the change (which slot has the orange container), or you need to make a mechanical or software adjustment before the round starts. Really exciting to see how different teams handle this new kind of challenge
Key strategic choice will be what to do with the containers: There are lots of different ways to split up the containers between the various drop points around the board. We read through the rules multiple times, tried to draw the constraints on a whiteboard, and finally decided to build a tool to determine the best arrangement. You can try this out at Container Arrangement Toolkit. Try different target locations for the containers and figure out the optimal scoring strategy.
The collaborative task, Air Drop, requires real coordination: The FLL game creators love to give collaborative tasks every year. For new teams, this may not be obvious, but the real game is played with two robot game tables set side by side, you can think of them being mirror images of each other. The part of the task you can complete yourself is not that hard, but what’s interesting is that your opposing team needs to do their component of the task early in the round for you to collect the shipment and move it to its designated area. So make sure to ask your paired team for their strategy before you start your round!
Hardest routing challenge is the semi-circle around the chicken: we’ll talk about routing (especially PID line followers) in an upcoming post, but one key test on this year’s board will be whether or not teams can follow a curved line. Much harder than it looks!
A new tool: #PandaPower Cargo Connect Scoring Calculator
Making a robot out of Legos that can go around and solve miniature tasks is cool and all, but everyone really wants to know how many points they scored. Using our new scoring calculator, you can act like a judge and score your round.
Go to https://coda.io/@pandapower/fll-cargo-connect-scoring-calculator to give it a try.
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