News & Events

CG Students Excel at Robotics World Championship
Posted 05/09/2019 04:00PM


Reports from the FIRST Robotics World Championship, Houston, Texas, April 17-20, 2019 


Pictured: Kidobots Sana Shah (left) and Nesara Shree.

Kidobots recognized for “Innovative Solution” for astronauts

Kidobots, an all-girls FIRST Lego League team representing Oregon at the World Championship, won 2nd place “Innovative Solution Award” for their project. Two Catlin Gabel Middle Schoolers, Sana Shah (Grade 6) and Nesara Shree (Grade 7) are part of this team, and Sana’s father is one of their coaches. 

Their solution uses AI to detect astronaut’s emotions during long duration space flights based on camera feeds on the spacecraft. Their AI solution analyzes this data in real time, to provide timely and gentle feedback to the astronauts before important missions. This objective, behavioral research data is also collected to find possible correlations for future missions.

They were inspired to come up with this solution when astronaut Scott Kelly mentioned in his book Endurance that he failed one of his is missions when he was not emotionally ready, but he pushed himself. Through the season, the girls received feedback from a behavioral scientist at NASA who is researching this area for mission to mars. He has started evaluating their solution.

At the world championships, 108 teams from over 35 countries competed. Through the season, 323,000 students on 40,000 teams from 95+ countries participated in this year’s challenge.

-    Prashant Amol


Pictured: 1540 the Flaming Chickens at the World Championship in Houston

1540 the Flaming Chickens introduce Phineas at Worlds

The Catlin Gabel US Robotics team just wrapped up our time at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston. This was a special year for the Flaming Chickens. The team has historically had a reputation as a “Chairman’s Team” that excels at community outreach and philanthropic engineering. Sometimes we build some pretty cool robots too. This year was different.

Our team built the most competitive robot the program has ever produced, Phineas. This robot and team was so strong we were the top ranked team at our two district qualifiers, qualified for the PNW championship in Tacoma, did well there and qualified for the world championship purely on the strength of our field performance! No Chairman’s or Engineering Inspiration awards required.

For the last three days the team has been competing at the world championships in Houston. We did so well there that, for the first time in our team’s 15 year history, we were an alliance captain at worlds! For FIRST nerds, we started out as the 7th alliance captain, rose to 6th after 1 picked 2, and then we were the first pick of #4. Got that?

Being picked by a higher ranked team, in our case legacy team 180, S.P.A.M, from Florida, is always flattering. How well that alliance performs depends on the strategy that captain adopts. Picking us was no surprise since we have some of the highest performance stats of all the teams in our sub-division...higher than the captain’s, in fact. Alas, once we joined their alliance they passed on our advice to pick a strong defensive robot for the second pick and instead selected an average offensive robot. That proved to be, as we engineers say, “suboptimal” and our alliance was knocked out in the quarter finals in some crazy high scoring matches separated by only a few points. So it goes.

I’m incredibly proud of what the team accomplished this year. The 35 members invested over 5,200 hours since January designing, fabricating, and programming this sophisticated machine. Unlike many top-tier robots, ours is entirely student designed, built, and programmed. This is impressive stuff.

This is a software-intensive robot, even more than normal for us. Every time we drive, manipulate a game piece, or climb on a platform the dozen motors and multiple pneumatic actuators are being guided by mountains of software. In fact this is the first time our robot relies on computer vision every time it acquires or scores a game piece. We’re lucky to have so many skilled programmers thanks to Catlin’s Computer Science program.

Our team is known as a powerhouse when it comes to strategic analysis. At the matches the members capture detailed information from every match using a custom application on tablets and then slice & dice it with statistics guided by years of intuition.

Want to see what this game is like? Our team, 1540, is on the top left jumping off the red platform at the beginning of this match The game changes every year so who knows what the future holds.

On the Community Engineering side of the team, this year we worked hard on WaterWand  a throwable, bluetooth enabled water quality monitor and AbleMail, an email client for people with cognitive disabilities. We also organized a competition called LEAP (Linking Engineering and Philanthropy) in partnership with MercyCorps and Autodesk. We developed and hosted BunnyBots with 24 teams taking part and expanded that to the east coast. In addition Catlin hosted two FLL tournaments with our help.

I want to thank all the parents and teachers who tolerate these students being consumed for so long. Sure, this is what experiential learning is about but that doesn’t make it any easier when they are gone, either physically or mentally. Your understanding is much appreciated. You can have them back now!

-       Dale Yocum, Catlin Gabel Engineering Programs Director


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