Tower Takeover 2020 (Vex)


This was the first serious competition that I had entered with my school. We had a team of 8 or so people, I worked on the code, 3 people worked on the mechanics of the vehicle and 2 people worked on the report/journal we had to keep and also worked on the presentation. We also had 2-3 people who the teacher added to the team but didn't really do much except busywork. In the end though none of us stuck with just our jobs, all of us helped with coming up with ideas and building the vehicle. I still did the code mostly myself though, since nobody else on the team was experienced in that regard.


Moving on to the rules of the competition, the goal was to make a robot that picks up and stacks 3 different colored cubes in your teams goal zones, while also trying to place them high up in the "towers". Placing a cube of a color in a tower increases the point value of that cube in your stacks. On top of that, there is an autonomous period at the start, the team scoring more points during that period getting 6 bonus points at the end of the game. The pairs were randomly selected before each match, and your team winning was heavily dependent on both players doing well.

The first thing we did as a team was decide on what sort of robot to make. After some brainstorming we decided to make a standard robot with 2 grabber "arms" that also pulled up blocks into a tray. Unfortunately since both the school ordered the parts late, AND the parts took longer to arrive than usual, we ended up being very behind schedule. Once we got what we needed though, I started working on the control code while the others were starting to build it. I made the autonomous code next, which was supposed to go forward, take some cubes, then turn to our goal zone and release said cubes. After I was done personally, I couldn't really test the vehicle because it wasn't done yet. For this reason, I ended up helping the rest of the team by working on the tray, and making a replica of the first grabber that was already made so we had 2 of them. Our tray ended up not being very big, but it could still fit 5 or so cubes in it. After 2-3 weeks of working on the project, we were done. The arms ended up slightly too far apart and would drop cubes frequently but we had no more time to improve it and it was hopefully good enough to at least let us pass a few rounds.

When the day of the competition arrived, we were feeling pretty confident, especially after watching a few of the matches before us, which didn't do very well. Unfortunately we were extremely unlucky during the actual competition. First of all, there was a problem with the programming language we had to use to program the robot. There were 2 parts of the script we could edit, the autonomous function and the main function. These were activated automatically during the competition, via cables connected to our controllers. However, the code would randomly get stuck at the autonomous function and lock it from any other further control. The problem ended up being a bug that would prevent the rest of the code from running after it, that never showed up during testing, only during the competition. Luckily we fixed it later on, but it was too late since we lost 2-3 games beforehand. So basically 2 of the games we played that day we were just completely immobile while the other teams we were with desperately tried to do their best. In a different match, our driver got one of our wheels stuck in a goal zone, which also made us unable to move, and in another different match one of our motors just stopped working. We were also unlucky with the teams we were with/against. Most of our games, the teams we were against had at least 1 good robot and the team we were with had problems like ours, if not worse.

Despite all the problems we faced, we still did decently well in the end, and it was still a great experience to compete in a really serious competition like VEX. I feel like this helped me improve with my teamwork skills and my skills working under a slim time frame.