By Alex Benham Picture this: You’re lying in bed, fast asleep, when your phone rings.…
Two students from The ASK Academy, a Rio Rancho, New Mexico charter school focused on STEM and biomedical engineering, came to Sigma for help with a project. Abigail Catanzaro and Garnet Waldrop, both entering 8th grade, needed a cover and scoop for their robot, Suomo. They were headed to the RoboRAVE International SumoBot competition in Conghua, China to compete against more than 700 hundred students from 26 countries in July.
Both young women are fiercely competitive and had taken 17th place out of 94 teams at RoboRAVE North America a few months earlier in Albuquerque. Suomo was built from Lego parts, a motor, wiring and software that they programmed to push other robots out of a marked area, like Sumo wrestling.
The team’s proposal had specific parameters:
- A metal cover to protect the robot’s insides from damage during battle.
- A total robot weight of between 1 and 1.5 kilograms.
- Max volume equal/less than 400 square centimeters.
The students’ proposal showed they understood the engineering principles behind their request. They wrote, “Increasing the mass by adding a metal case will also increase momentum. Force = mass X acceleration (one of Newton’s big 3 laws). Momentum is needed to cause a fast reaction to push other robots off the mat.
Scoops are used much like a bulldozer to push other robots out of the tournament ring. They can also be used to scoop under opposition and knock them off balance. Our design has a front scoop, but we can’t figure out how to build to meet the size requirements and effectively use it to demolish our opponents. We welcome your ideas on how to improve the scoop and still meet our max volume.”
Sigma R&D Process Engineer Scott Betts and NM State intern Chris Padilla created CAD drawings of the team’s removable stainless-steel cover and scoop. After several iterations and in-person testing, Sigma printed a final design.
“Creating a proposal, being part of the design and engineering process, and being able to make modifications to code gives them a huge advantage as female engineers,” said Darren Beckett, Sigma’s CTO. What better way to engage students in the STEM areas than assisting them with this project?”
Collaboration and adapting
But in China just one day before the competition started, Abby and Garnet learned that the rules had changed and their robot had been placed in a different category. Metal parts would no longer be allowed in the LegoBot division. The were to compete instead against heavier, bigger, faster bots with more power.
“We thought about taking the cover off and competing in our original division, but decided it wouldn’t be best. Our robot was smaller than the others in the Lego division,” says Garnet.
Instead, the team placed lead shot in Suomo’s wheels and battled on. Suomo performed well, placing 11th out 36 teams, and one just spot away from the finals. Far from being disappointed, the team was thrilled to have finished so well against tough competition.
And Sigma was delighted to have been a part of an educational and fun experience for Abby and Garnet.