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2017 Fall Contest

"Stack 'em quick, but stack 'em tall, or all of Warren College may fall!"

    Sayings of the First Builders, The Builder's Book

The fabled Castle Black--which for centuries has stood sentinel, guarding the northern reaches of Warren College--has suffered a partial collapse. A party of Rangers have just returned and report that the Winter Quarter White Walkers are approaching!! There is little time to rebuild the damaged castle walls, and so all Builders have been called forth.

/three long horn blasts    

The Professor Builders realize that only a diversity of designs can possibly rebuild the castle in time, and direct all MAE 3 Budding Builders to race to the rescue.

Quoth the Professor Builders: "Teams of MAE 3 Budding Builders must design a robot to stack building blocks onto the castle wall. Each team will repair their own section of the castle, using blocks staged in their area. There are also blocks at the location of the collapse, and these blocks are shared between both teams. The Winter Quarter White Walkers are excellent climbers, so you must rebuild the castle as high as possible! Teams will be scored by how many blocks are stacked in 60 seconds.

Each building block is a 3.8 cm (1 1/2'') cube and weighs 40 g (1.41 oz). There are 24 blocks in towers of 3 distributed across each area. In the center zone, there are an additional 18 blocks, each with a special one point bonus should they make it to the scoring area! But this challenge is only for the clever and brave... each group of Budding Builders must work together to design a wall-building robot from low power electric motors, custom transmissions and drive-trains, and only four control inputs."

Playing Field:
60 Second Competition:

Two robots will compete head to head for 60 seconds. Robots will try to collect and stack as many wooden blocks as possible. All scoring will be done at the completion of the contest after all parts have finished moving.

Wooden Block Collection Sites:

There are several areas where wooden blocks can be collected. Each side has 24 blocks and the center divider has 18 blocks, making a total of 66 blocks on the contest table. 

Block Size: 3.8x3.8x3.8cm (1.5x1.5x1.5in)
Block Mass: 40g (1.41 oz)

The Scoring Area: rebuilding the castle wall

Stacking points:

Wooden blocks must be collected and placed onto the scoring platform to get points. Blocks are scored based on their height from the ground. Blocks higher off the ground are worth more points.

Zone 1: 0-3in (1pts)
Zone 2: 3-6in (2pts)
Zone 3: 6-9in (3pts)
Zone 4: >9in (4pts)

Bonus points:

Blocks on the center platform--which will be blue but otherwise identical to the other blocks--carry a bonus of 1 point per center block in the scoring area. At the end of a 60 sec round, judges will count the center blocks in the scoring area and add that to the stacking points described above to determine the total points.

Scoring Platforms

The scoring zones are shown

In order for the block to be scored, it must satisfy all three of these criterion once the clock stops:
  • The block cannot be touching the robot
  • The block must either be touching the scoring platform, or touching another block that is touching the platform, and etc...
  • Scoring will be based relative to the wall and block surfaces shown above
  • The entire block must be higher than the scoring zone to obtain maximum points.

The Starting Boxes and The Rail:

The playing fields have a rail that students may attach robots do. The top of the rail is 14in from the ground and contains a stopper in the center. Robots must start within their designated starting area on opposing sides of the table and must fit within a 10x10x18in box

Teams may choose to start either on the ground or on the rail. A rail starting robot must be no higher than 16in and no lower than 6in from the ground. This leaves 2in above the rail to build a drivetrain mechanism. The starting locations are shown below.

Rail starting location

Ground starting location

Tie Breakers:

In the case of a tie, the team who placed the first block in their scoring area wins the tiebreaker.

Actual Photos (minus a few blocks for now):

General MAE3 Competition rules:

A complete list of rules is provided at the end of this document, and any clarifications to the rules will be posted at the end of this webpage throughout the quarter. However, some key rules are:

  • Robot setup time on the contest table cannot exceed 2 minutes.
  • Manufacturing variations will exist between playing fields.  It is the team's responsibility to design a robot that will work on all contest tables.
  • Each robot must only be built out of kit parts provided.
  • Robots must be built in the Design Studio only using Design Studio tools.
  • The disassembled robot must be able to fit in the team's locker, where it must be stored.
  • Robots may be designed to interact. However, it is not in the spirit of the competition to intentionally damage another machine and no part of the kit may be used in a manner that is intended to cause harm. Any device which is designed to chop, break, or penetrate another machine will not be allowed to compete. If you think your machine may be at risk for violating this rule, ask early before you build it! 
    • Applying forces onto an opposing team’s robot that are large enough to break plastic pasts, while the opposing robot is in its starting area, will be deemed to be intentional harm to an opponent and can lead to disqualification.
    • However, blocking other robots or pushing other robots while attempting to score will generally be considered legal.
    • If any part of your robot is on the opponents side at the end of the competition you will be deducted 10 points. 
  • Robots will compete in a head-to-head competition. However, operation of the robot without an opponent will be an important part of the robot grade.

Electrical Power

The robots must be powered solely from electrical power transferred through the power cord, and from potential energy stored in the robot at the start of the contest. The kit includes 2 geared DC motors, 3 non-geared DC motors, and one solenoid. Electrical power will be provided from a power supply with a maximum of 5VDC output. The power will be controlled by the following switches:  

Two Fixed 5 Volts DC switches

Two Variable Voltage switches (0 to 5VDC) with a user controlled knob to adjust the voltage.

Each switch is Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) switches, which can operate a DC motor in either direction. Note the kit contains five DC motors and one solenoid, but only four user controlled switches. More than one electrical device can be connected to a single switch, but the voltage may drop if a large current draw is placed on the power supply. Use of motors, solenoids, and switches will be covered in lecture and is described in the course pack.

Review the Power Supply and Multimeter Use carefully. Issues with the electrical power often occur with the Variable Voltage switches, since the maximum current output is less in these switches. The non-geared motors draw high current and startup problems may occur if multiple non-geared motors with high loads are tied to the variable voltage source!

Kit Parts and Use Guidelines

Each machine must be constructed solely from materials provided in the Kit Parts list (List attached below). Some key points on these guidelines are:
  • No foamcore in final robot (as stated in kit parts list).
  • The wire and string are serve your self, but are limited in length as noted.
  • The paper cover on the acrylic parts is not to be used as a separate part. If it is detached from the acrylic it must be discarded.

In addition to the kit parts listed in the table, the following items may be included in the machine:

  • Nuts, bolts, and washers included in the Design Studio bin. These include bolts from size 2 to size 10, and metric screws for mounting the motors.
  • Only take nuts and bolts from the bin as you need them, and search through the spare bolt bin before taking more (we went through $1,500 in fasteners last year!).
  • Adhesives; including hot melt glue, and acrylic adhesive.
  • Tape used ONLY for electrical insulation.
  • Lubricants used only to reduce friction within one's machine (not on the contest table).
  • Nonfunctional decorations.

Replacement Material Policy

We have some extra material that can be used for experimentation. This material will be made available in the lab scrap bins. In addition each section tutor has access to a limited amount of replacement material for their section. If you need replacement parts, contact your tutor. Some replacement of "mistakes" made to kit parts will be available, but supplies are limited, and replacement is not guaranteed.

3D Printed Parts

See 3D printing page for complete rules:

Each team may have parts made in the Design Studio's 3D printers under the following guidelines. 
  • The combined volume of all 3D printed parts, may not exceed 50 cubic inches per team.
  • Individual prints must fit within a 4x4x4in cube.
  • Team members must create the CAD files for all 3D printed parts, except for gears, timing belt pulleys, and selected parts such that will be posted on the MAE3 webpage.
  • Teams can experiment with 3D printing and parts that are not used on the robot will not count towards the team's total. However, priority to the 3D printer will go to students working during their section time and to teams which have not yet used to 3D printer as much. Use of the 3D printer may be heavy during the final weeks of the class, so do not count on readily available access at that point.

Contest Day Details

The contest will be held during the MAE finals period and will be open to the public. The contest will be held in a single elimination fashion (like a tennis tournament). During the lab period of the last week of classes, each section will hold a section-wide contest. The results of this contest will be used to seed the placement of the final contest. Thus teams that perform better during their section contest will have statistically easier contests in the early rounds. Since the number of teams in the class will not be exactly a power of 2, the higher seeded teams may get a "bye" during the first round. If necessary "wild card" teams will be selected to have a second chance in the contest, to ensure that all pyramid spots are filled. 

Performance in the contest depends on numerous factors that do not relate to engineering quality of the robot, including driving skill and luck! 

The grade for the project will not be adversely affected by poor performance in the contest, but will be based upon
  1. Performance of the machine without an opponent. A video record of the robot performance at its best should be the team's oral presentation. 
  2. Effective communication of the design (orally and in final reports). 
  3. Documentation of the design process and justification of decisions made. 
  4. Analysis of machine performance in the robot reports. 
  5. Following good design practices. 
A trophy will be presented to each member of the winning teams, and a number of machines will be selected for display in the Design Studio. Team members must work out among themselves who will keep the final machine (after their display period). Teams will post presentations and video of their robot on the class web page, which they can cherish forever.

Energy Sources 

The energy used by the devices in the competition must come solely from:

  1. Potential energy derived through a change in altitude of the center of gravity of the machine
  2. Potential energy achieved by the deformation of the springs provided by the Kit
  3. Electrical energy derived through the umbilical during the 60 seconds when the power supply is energized.

Umbilical Cables 

The electrical connections will made to a single umbilical cord hung from above the table; one on each side of the table. The umbilical cord cannot be touched during the contest, and there will be some drag from the cable. Each machine must be designed to overcome this drag if necessary for motion of the machine. If requested a TA can ensure that the umbilical cable does not snag.

Expanded Rules List

Only the tools and machine equipment in the Design Studio can be used to build the robot.

  1. Judges and/or instructors will disqualify any device that appears to be a safety hazard. 
  2. Any machine that has flying parts must notify opponents, and all contestants must wear safety glasses during the machine operation.
  3. If a projectile is used, for reasons of safety, it must have a frontal area greater than 2 inch squared.
  4. Contestants will randomly be assigned to start on either side of the playing field.
  5. A maximum set-up time of 2 minutes will be allowed at the contest table.
  6. A maximum of 1 minute will be allowed for removal of all parts of each machine after each contest.
  7. Operators may interact with their machine during a contest only through normal operation of the switch boxes (for example you cannot touch the machine with one's hands during operation).
  8. It is allowable to adjust the configuration of the machine between contests; for example adjusting the configuration to the side of the playing field the machine starts on.
  9. Each machine can only interact with the surface of the playing field and objects on the playing field.
  10. The judges will wait until all the playing pieces have stopped moving before determining the winner.
  11. Points will be awarded based upon the final location of the playing pieces, regardless of which machine moved them.
  12. A playing piece will be declared out-of-bounds if it is off the playing field. 
  13. Damaging the playing field or the control boxes may result in disqualification.
  14. Purposefully using the electrical cables for any purpose other than transmitting electricity is not allowed. 
  15. Gaining traction by use of adhesives, or by abrading or breaking the surface of the playing field is not allowed.
  16. A machine may not contaminate with lubricant or other substance the playing field or an opponent's machine (internal lubrication of a machine is permissible).
  17. Kit materials may not be changed chemically. DC Motors may not be rewound.
  18. The paper that is attached to the acrylic in the kit cannot be used as a separate element in the machine. If any piece of paper is detached (even partially) from the acrylic it must be discarded.
  19. The insulation must remain on the electrical wire in the kit except where the wire end is attached to another component, and there up to 0.5” of insulating can be removed.
  20. The clear acrylic 0.25 thick is for testing. If you include any of this acrylic in your final machine, you must remove an equivalent amount of colored acrylic that was used in making the part.
  21. Spare parts are available on a limited basis. Students should go to the tutors of their section to receive replacements for parts broken. Student can purchase replacement acrylic from upper campus machine shop or off campus (see door of Chris Cassidy's office for sources)
  22. Machines may be designed to interact. However, it is not in the spirit of the competition to intentionally damage another machine and no part of the kit may be used in a manner that is intended to cause harm. Any device which is designed to chop, break, or penetrate another machine will not be allowed to compete. If you think your machine may be at risk for violating this rule, ask early before you build it! (see rule clarifications)
  23. Machine advertisements and decorations must be of the nature that it does not offend any other students or audience participants (use common sense!). 
  24. All rulings of the judges will be final.


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