By: Tim Lines
MINDS-i Robotics

MINDS-i held its annual Robotics competition Saturday the 3rd of June. The room was packed full of parents, families, teachers, and middle school students as teams hurried to get their robots working before their time on the course. This year’s theme was “Farmer-bot” which challenged teams to build a robot that would harvest and sort crops as well as navigate autonomously and manually through a series of obstacle courses.

The competition was designed to develop skills in problem solving, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and programming. Students and instructors that participated found new levels of passion and enthusiasm for robotics and technology based careers. Using the MINDS-i robotics kits, student teams solved various applied learning challenges and competed in hands-on robotics categories. Both the robotics and the applied learning challenges made up a portion of the total points earned by each team.

There were various hands-on robotics challenges some designed to be hands-free/autonomous, to develop and test programming, micro-control and sensor selection skills. Others developed mechanical engineering skills, and put students’ all terrain robot navigation skills to the test under the pressure of time.

Challenge 1: Autonomous Route Navigation; Heading to the farm, teams navigated autonomously (hands-free) using Ultrasound sensors, IR line following sensors or touch sensors. This was simulating the ability of a robotic tractor to navigate and drive to the field autonomously.

Challenge 2: Manual Task; Through harvesting /sorting the goal was to collect as many balls as possible in the allotted time and then correctly sort, by color, a minimum of 2 balls. This challenge simulates harvesting crops on a field and sorting out different fruit types or sorting between good and bad fruit.

Challenge 3: Obstacle Course; teams attempted to navigate through their way back to the barn, simulating the end of a work day.

In the applied learning challenge, each team created a science fair style tri-fold display or poster demonstrating their understanding of the application including the ability to articulate the math and science learning standards for grades sixth through eighth. The objective of this challenge is for the teams to apply and communicate their understanding of the application of the standards directly to their robots and the competition theme and careers in related technical fields.
MINDS-i gives awards to the top three teams in Robotics and Applied challenges, the Most Innovative, and the Grand Champion or winner of the MINDS-i robotics completion. The team that showed innovation and creative engineering design is awarded the award Most Innovative award, encouraging students to think outside the box when it comes to building their robot.

The Grand Champion award is awarded to the team who did the best in both the robotics and applied learning challenge.

About MINDS-i

MINDS-i robotics is in Liberty Lake, Washington. The business idea of Mike and Christy Marzetta to make a difference with students and have fun in STEM related fields. With the expertise, precision machining and injection molding of Altek Manufacturing, MINDS-i sets out to give students and teachers the best tools for the twenty first century skills. The MINDS-i robotic platform designed and built in Liberty Lake is a robust and open source platform. Their newest development is the Foundation and Drone curriculum labs, a turn-key solution for schools to use robotics and drones to teach STEM through hands on projects in the classroom.

The MINDS-i completion was a great experience for student to learn and apply robotics. Here are a few things students had to say about the competition:

Take it from the kids – robotics is an amazing experience!

Student in robotics competition spokane wa 2017

Interview with Cameron Lybbert

Q. What grade are you in?
A. 8th

Q. What part of the robot have you been working on?
A. I have been working on the mini bot. The “baby bot”, the car that will come off of our big crawler bot for it to pick up the balls inside the arena and take them back and drop them inside the bigger bot which will sort the balls.

Q. How did you come up with this new design?
A. We came up with design because we didn’t have enough resources to come up with another claw so finally we went with a new idea. “We can make a mini bot!” We used Mr. Smith’s 3d printer to make parts to connect the servos and a ramp for the baby bot to climb up the big bot.

Q. What do you like about working with robotics?
A. I really like seeing all the robots and how they function and the different types. I like programming robots and seeing what can be integrated into them and seeing what can change to make them can go faster, slower, or do different things.

Q. What do you think you can do with robotics in the future?
A. I think I can use programming skills to become a software developer who using programming on a day to day basis and learn from this competition today to develop on that in the future.

Q. How do you like the MINDS-i competition?
A. I’ve participated in the MINDS-i competition last year, and it was a lot of fun. We had a different instructor this year who changed the way we worked this year. The robotic competition is all about having fun. To me it’s not a competitive competition but it’s about having fun, driving your robot, seeing what you can do.

student in robotics competition spokane wa 2017

Interview with Samantha Seaboldt

Q. What grade are you in?
A. 8th

Q. What part of the robot have you been working on?
A. I mostly helped with the poster. I helped a little bit with the robot brainstorming ideas. For the applied learning challenge we found research online, pictures, and typed up different things that we did, we had students type up experiences in what they did in trial and error so others could see the experience of the robot competition.

Q. What do you like about working with robotics?
A. I like being able to work with things and try to build something and I liked researching and making things that make sense to other people.

Q. What do you think you can do with robotics in the future?
A. Yes, I plan to got to Spokane Valley Tech (SVT) I want to join the robotics team.

robotics competition student in spokane

Interview with Robbie Champaign

Q. What grade are you in?
A. 8th grade

Q. What part of the robot have you been working on?
A. I’ve been working on coding, fixing the QTI sensors, and other last minute things. Before that I was working on the chassis. We did have a tri fold ready for the applied learning challenge, but our team that was helping us with it quit so we didn’t get it together in time, but we’ve been working around the clock to get our robot done. I’m a little tired but it’s been fun.

Q. What do you like about working with robotics?
A. It really helps set the way careers. I’ve been talking to younger kids about careers in robotics. I did a presentation on careers in robotics in front of K through 5th graders, and it was a lot of fun. It’s helped me in school.” He joked saying “I’m able to look a lot smarter than the rest of my family at gatherings, so that’s always fun.

Q. What do you think you can do with robotics in the future?
A. There are lots of careers in robotics. This is helping me pave the way for high school robotics, which look really advanced and cool. I hope to do a lot with robotics in the future. I’m very enthusiastic about film, and I know that there are lots of robotics involved in how the cameras work so maybe something like that.

students in robotic competition spokane, wa 2017

Interview with Noah and Jonathon

Q. What grade are you in?
A. 7th grade.

Q. What part of the robot have you been working on?
A. Noah: “All of the robot, but the arm I would say was the hardest part.”
A. Jonathan: “The autonomous and coding. Coding, installation of sensors and the board.”

Q. What do you like about working with robotics?
A. Noah: “For me it’s a really fun challenge. On this course it was hard to line our robot up right for our sensor to pick up the ball correctly.”
A. Jonathan: “It really doesn’t stay the same. You can have set course like this but every time I ran the robot, testing it and trying to get it to work right, it wouldn’t run properly, exactly, and perfectly the way I wanted it to run. It’s always different.”

Q. What do you think you can do with robotics in the future?
A. Noah: “Technology later will be advanced so there will be a lot more that we can do, but I don’t know what I’m going to do for my future.”
A. Jonathan: “I’d like to go into an engineering field.”