Robots of course, are old hat now. To the professionals, they are the lifeblood of production assembly plants, and more personally, can be a real help to those less fortunate that ourselves who may have mobility problems. To the U3A however, they have proved to be an endless source of fun and more importantly, for learning new skills and technology for many science groups.
There are now several small programmable computer boards on the market at very low cost, which are ideal for creating controllable or automated projects. Why not use them to create a moveable robot that is capable of undertaking physical challenges or tasks?
These programmable devices need serious learning of the new technology, software programming, electronics, mechanical engineering, and most of all, a lot of thought for the design of attachments to the robot for accomplishing a challenge in the most efficient way.
After a call for interest at the end of 2018 and then knowing of several U3A constructors, Cannock Chase U3A in Staffordshire thought we would organise a challenge event day in October 2019 to bring all these teams together. Six challenge arenas were offered, which took a great deal of effort to design and construct beforehand and assemble in the hall on the day, never mind all the documentation needed to spell out the rules and challenge details, the judges team, the kitchen team, the door team briefings and many more who thankfully helped us construct everything.
There was serious competition that arrived from all over the country. From as far as Devon, London, Grantham, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Lancaster to name a few. The hall became bedecked with laptops, displays, WiFi routers and equipment galore, resembling a NASA mission control centre. There was furious re-programming and tweaks taking place to improve performance which was just amazing to watch.
The variation and ingenuity of the robot constructions and their adaptations were amazing and was a credit to U3A member abilities and team efforts beforehand and on the day.
Amongst the challenges for the day were a Crazy Golf Course, The Egg and Spoon Race, The Maze, Follow the White Line and Skittle Alley. It was great fun to witness, and all seemed to enjoy the day.
There were winners for the six challenges, and the overall day winner was Paul Taylor of Grantham U3A with “Grobot Isaac”. Congratulations to all the winners of course, but we would like to thank all those who came to compete for all their hard work and travelling so far. We were proud of you all.