Gearing up for a great year!

Hi, I’m Sophia, and I am a junior at Indiana Academy and I am a complete beginner when it comes to robotics. In fact, I was a little nervous about joining since I had no experience or skills like programming under my belt. However, for the past week, I am proud to say that I have learned much about robotics especially in the mechanical field. 

     As a part of mechanical, my group is currently working on the climbing mechanisms of the robot. Our task right now is focusing on building a prototype telescope arm that is able to extend and retract with as little friction as possible. To create such a frictionless surface we cut some HDPE plastic, which is the same plastic that milk jugs are made out of, into small rectangular prisms to perfectly space in between 2 poles. (the extending pole being smaller and inside the large outer pole). This was honestly pretty difficult since we started off with scrap plastic pieces that were uneven and too large, both in length, width, and height. In order to correct this, we had learned how to use the machinery to slowly cut and shave off some layers of plastic. Mike, our mentor, not only helped us to do so safely, but he also helped us plan and calculate the necessary measurements for the spacing. After some failed attempts we have a working prototype that will reduce nearly all friction when the arm extends. 

It is extremely mind-boggling how much I have learned in the past week. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of thinking things through. This of course is all thanks to my mentor, Mike. I have never thought as deeply about the steps I take for completing tasks. For instance, shaving down the plastic prisms took several hours due to the fact that the plastic was uneven, making it difficult to get the perfect precise cut that we wanted. (And here I thought that engineers approximate everything.) Another thing I learned this week was how to use larger machinery. I have previously handled tools and machinery before, but never with such high-end ones that could give extremely exact and precise cuts. It was like magic working with machines, watching our team’s work slowly form as time passes. I also enjoyed greatly how each of our creativity shined as we created new ideas while tackling problems. I truly can’t wait to learn more in the next seven weeks from all of our amazing mentors at 1720.

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