BATAVIA – The robots hustled in the competition pit, scooping up green beanbags in mechanized shovels and dumping them into raised troughs, their designers at the controls.
Then the competing team’s robot toppled over, its wheels spinning as the controller tried to use its scooper mechanism to right itself. Too late. The round was over, and the next competitors stepped up while the teams carried their robots off to be adjusted.
Forty-eight teams competed in the tournament at the Great Lakes-Midwest-Illinois VEX Robotics Championship on Saturday at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia. Batavia Robotics and Fox Valley Robotics hosted the event, which drew participants from the Chicago metro area, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Allen Newendyke of Batavia was the coach for his team, Simply Complicated, made up of his son, Ryan, 16; daughter, Alexis, 12; and Ryan Moser, 17, of Elgin.
“We’re having some difficulty, but normally, we run better than that,” Newendyke said as he was making adjustments to the mechanism.
Moser said he enjoys designing robots. As to his opponent’s robot tipping over and giving him an unexpected advantage, Moser smiled.
“You don’t wish them to tip over, but it’s just part of the design,” Moser said. “If you have a high center of gravity, it’s more likely to fall over in a match.”
Teams get instructions of what the robots are supposed to do. In past competitions, robots picked up plastic rings and stacked them on posts. In this competition, the goal was to lift the beanbags up into the trough.
In addition to scoops and buckets that looked like miniature backhoes, designs relied on conveyor belts to pull up the beanbags and deposit them into a bucket that would drop them into the trough.
Matches are in three pits with two teams in each, 15 seconds for robots to be autonomous and 45 seconds of controller-operated movement.
A back room was packed with teams hovering over their creations, making adjustments and repairs, including another local team, Cobalt, made up of Sue Park, 17, of Geneva and Mia Garbaccio, 16, of Lisle who were hustling to repair their robot for the next round.
“Something went wrong,” Park said. “The bucket came undone. So we can fix it very easily and we will surely win the next match. We just have to tighten the screw.”