The Exploring program is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America open to both boys and girls from 9th grade (or age 15 if in 8th grade) through age 20. The name comes from the focus on career exploration. Posts are usually devoted to a particular career field, such as firefighting, police work, medicine, piloting, etc., and are sponsored by an organization with expertise in that field.
Explorer Post 2829 is sponsored by Indiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech) in Fort Wayne, and is devoted to engineering in general, with particular emphasis on robotics. The Post was founded in 1995. The advisor is Dr. Rex Joyner, Professor of Physics at Indiana Tech.
Post 2829’s year begins with a recruitment meeting (called a First Nighter) in late August, followed by biweekly meetings throughout the school year. The prime focus is to prepare entries for two major competitions: the Northeast Indiana Robot Games, held in February at Science Central in Fort Wayne; and the National Robotics Challenge (NRC), a three-day event held in April in Marion, Ohio. Since 1996 we have brought home 27 Golds from the NRC and its predecessor competition. After May, the Post usually shuts down for the summer, although summer 2011 was an exception: there were biweekly meetings working on a Robo-Magellan project.
At meetings, members have the opportunity to work on whatever projects they are interested in. For first-year members, robot kits are provided along with lessons on building and programming the robots. For second year and beyond, members are free to explore pretty much anything they like, keeping in mind the goal of taking entries to the two major competitions. In addition to the regular meetings, there are other non-robotics activities. There are movie nights a couple times a year, and occasional outings for things such as paintball, laser tag, or go carts.
Most of our robots are designed to compete in basic categories such as maze (tactile and non-tactile) and sumo. We compete at the local NEIRG competition and also at NRC. For more information on the different competition categories please read the "About the Competitions" section below. Don't think that these are the only categories and competitions you can enter though, as we are always open to the idea of entering a new competition or category.
The platform that most members of our group use is the Parallax Boe-Bot with a BASIC stamp 2 Module (BS2). This system is a great way to introduce new members to robotics and often is used as a simple maze solving robot. Veteran members often move away from the Boe-Bot to branch out into more complicated systems or different competition categories, but some stick with the Boe-Bot system for years.
The two main contests we compete in are NEIRG (Northeast Indiana Robot Games) and NRC (National Robotics Challenge). The most common categories for our members to enter are the tactile maze, the non-tactile maze, and the 3kg sumo contests.
NEIRG is a small local competition held in February at the local Science Central facility. At NEIRG the heaviest sumo class is the 3kg class (mini sumo by NRC definitions). NRC (The National Robotics Challenge) on the other hand, is a large, national competition held over multiple days in April. NRC is hosted in Marion, Ohio and has a huge selection of categories and age groups ranging from elementary to post-secondary. The full list of competitions can be found on NRC's website (listed below and on the links page)
The contests in the sumo category are fairly straightforward; push the other robot out to win. The contests are divided into weight classes (including a size restriction). The NRC categories are the 125 pound heavyweight class, the 50 pound remote control lightweight class and the 3kg mini class.
Robots in the heavyweight and mini classes must have sensors to detect either the other robot or the line and be able to operate entirely on their own. Lightweight is remote controlled and does not require sensors, but must be self propelled. The robots' start position is selected randomly. The possible start positions are side by side facing the same direction, side by side facing opposite directions, head to head, and back to back.
At the signal of the judge both robots are activated and then attempt to push the other robot out of the ring. The ring is a four foot diameter circle for mini sumo and a 15'2" square for lightweight and heavyweight sumo. If any part of a robot goes out of the ring, the other robot is declared the winner.
The objective of the maze contests is to create a robot that will find its way to the exit of a plywood maze in the fastest time possible. Each contestant is given three runs to attempt the maze, with the fastest time being used for scoring. The robot with the fastest time wins.
The two categories in the maze contest are the tactile and non-tactile categories. Tactile robots are required to touch the walls of the maze in order to navigate, but non-tactile robots must navigate without touching the maze's walls. A non-tactile robot is penalized for touching the walls by having a penalty (20 seconds at NRC) added to their time each time they contact a wall.
This is a lot of information, and many people have questions, so if you have something you want to know, or need cleared up, feel free to visit our forums and ask us. In fact, we have a whole category devoted to any comments or questions you might have. Sign up and ask away!