A few weeks ago Triple Helix began working on our plans for operating in the age of the coronavirus. Our overriding concern is that we continue to inspire our students while at the same time protecting our students and mentors from contracting the virus. We are proceeding with the conservative assumption that any student or mentor on the team may be an unknowing asymptomatic carrier.
The details of our concerns, and our plans for continuing operations are laid out in detail here:
In short, we are developing our own Tele-Operated Robotics Competition (TORC) using bots which can be built by students at home, with mentoring via teleconference. We looked at multiple options for the robot platform and went with the option the students were most excited about: FPV drones. The competition and some of the fabrication will take place in our STEM gym, which is large enough to host socially distanced small groups. The competition format will be FRC style matches, probably 2 on 2, with a scoring game using gamepieces manipulated by the robots. A 3" cinewoop quadcopter will serve as the base robot. This class of drone was developed to safely and controllably carry a gopro in close proximity to people, with the propellers shrouded by ducts. For competition, instead carrying a gopro, the drone payload will be scoring mechanisms that manipulate game pieces and perhaps field elements. It is currently undetermined if matches will include an autonomous task, but there will be a teleoperated period, and some sort of cooperative endgame.
Key features of this concept are:
- The building task is cross discipline. It involves simple mechanical assembly, electrical assembly (including soldering), CAD design, and building light weight scoring mechanisms using 3D printing.
- Students can build their drones and practice flying them at home, or in socially distanced practice sessions.
- Mentoring, reporting on build progress, and collaborating on designs can all be done remotely, via videoconferencing.
- Solo pilots can remain socially distanced during matches and during competitions.
- Designing matches to incorporate coopertition encourages FRC style GP culture and design sharing.
Nothing would please us more than the development of a proven vaccine, which might enable a return to traditional FRC style competitions. Our 2020 robot is ready to compete in 2021, if it becomes possible to safely do so. In the meantime, while knowing that this option isn’t for everyone, we are sharing our plans with the FRC community in case there are other teams out there who might benefit from implementing something similar for themselves.