Teaching inquiry, collaboration, and technology through inquiry, collaboration, and technology.

Robot Bowling

February 27, 2013 No Comments

My Engineering class’s final team design challenge of the year is a robotics competition.  I only had the simplest robotics set-up for them to use (2 LEGO WeDo motors attached to the Scratch programming language) so I had to be a little creative to make the challenge interesting.  Here’s the breakdown the kids are getting this morning.  They will use this document to identify the objectives, criteria, and constraints of the design challenge.


Robot Bowling Design Challenge

A robot is a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.  For your final team design project this year you will design, build and program a robot to participate in a robot bowling competition.
The competition will take place on a large game board as shown in the diagram below.

Robotics Course

“The Board” via SketchUp.

The Challenge
Your robot must start behind the starting line. First it will travel to the bowling lane.  When it reaches the lane the robot will touch the electrical contacts in order to turn on a DC motor that is mounted on the robot.  The DC motor will make a steel “bowling ball” roll down the lane and knock down the bowling pins.  Once the ball has been “bowled,” the robot will drive around the perimeter of the board as shown in the diagram and knock down any remaining pins by crashing into them.  Two points will be scored for each pin knocked down by the steel ball and an additional one point will be scored for each pin knocked down by the robot.

Moving the Robot
In order to control the motion of your robot, you will be supplied with two LEGO motors and a USB control block to connect the motors to a laptop.  Since you will be sharing LEGO motors and USB control blocks with the other classes, you must be able to disconnect and reconnect them in less than 60 seconds.

Bowling the Steel Ball
The DC motor on your robot has to make the steel “bowling ball” to roll down the lane. To do this the DC motor must connect with the battery by touching the electrical contacts on the board.  The DC motor does not have to provide the force to roll the ball off of the robot, for example, the motor could open a door allowing the ball to roll off of the robot under the influence of gravity.  However, the robot may not use any form of stored chemical or elastic energy such as an additional battery, a spring or a rubber band to shoot the ball down the lane.

Building the Robot
Your robot can be a maximum of 20 cm long and 15 cm wide.  It may be constructed from the lego blocks, gears, pulleys, axles, and wheels provided by Mr. Carpenter.  Other safe materials may be used as long as they are not pre-packaged materials (additional LEGO’s, wheels, etc.).  In the event of a tie score the total cost of the robot will be used as a tiebreaker with least expensive robot winning.

Programming the Robot
The robot must be completely autonomous–you may not touch the robot or control it any way after the robot crosses the starting line.  In order to make the robot autonomous you will write a computer program using the Scratch programming language.  The program will tell the robot when to go, when to stop, and when to turn.  Since the two distances distances labeled A and B in the diagram will not be revealed until the final competition, you must be able to input them into your program before running your robot.  Your program must also display a ‘Start’ and ‘Stop’ button and a timer that shows the total time between pressing start and stop.  Your computer program will be evaluated based on its efficiency (the number of code blocks used) and clarity.

The Competition

Each robot’s score will be calculated using the following formula:

Score = ( 2 x Pins Knocked Down with the Ball ) + ( 1 x Pins Knocked Down with Robot )

In the event of a tie score the first tiebreaker will be the time required by the robots to complete the challenge.  The second tie breaker will be the total cost of the robot.
The top three robots from the entire grade (not the class) will receive the following prizes:

  • First Place – $20 Amazon Gift Card for each team member
  • Second Place – $15 Amazon Gift Card for each team member
  • Third Place – $10 Amazon Gift Card for each team member

Best Code
All robots that successfully bowl the steel ball and touch at least one bowling pin with the robot itself will be eligible to compete for the best code prize.  The code will be judged based on efficiency (the smallest number of code blocks used) and clarity.  The winner of the best code will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card for each team member.


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