Newt N’ Salamander! But congratulations to everyone who participated. It was epic and everyone fought the good fight. I brought my actual camera this time, and so I have a lot of pictures with a lot of descriptions, but I will go through a quick recap of contest day, followed by a few last words, as this will be my final blog entry.
I was extremely nervous from 10am up until about 1:30pm, which was about when we were eliminated. The night before I had several nightmares regarding the competition, and I did not sleep very well. I dreamt Saturday night that Will decided to completely revamp our robots and I didn’t find out until contest day. The robots were made completely out of poster board and were not even small enough to fit in the 60x60x60 box! The night before the competition I dreamt something that involved a shark in Millikan pond and it was trying to eat me…it was horrible.
Since I didn’t sleep well, I ended up waking up later than usual. I forgot to set my cell phone alarm on ring, and so it was still on vibrate. Luckily I woke up around 10am and made it down to the shop by 10:45. There was not much to do, except tell Jimmy (our TA) the screw count of our robots (we could not exceed 60 screws) and then wait for Will. Will had an interview that morning for a scholarship to go to Japan, and so I knew she would not be down for a while. I was very nervous, but the atmosphere in the shop was awesome. Epic music was playing in the background, and everyone in the shop was completely chill, even though they were rushing to put the finishing touches on their robots. I think everyone was nervous, but also a little relieved that it would all be over soon…
The shop closed at noon, so after we put our robots in the designated contest area, we had to kill time for an hour. I was completely freaking out at this point. We went to Chandler dining hall to grab some food, and to distract me from the stress. We knew that Robotic Hamster would have a hard time competing, and so I was nervous that all of our hard work would look bad in front of all of my friends. My basketball team came to the competition to support me, and so did a lot of my friends from Avery. Will managed to slightly distract me by asking me about all of the fun things I was going to do now with all of my free time…but it still felt like time went by extremely slowly…
We finally went back to Millikan pond around 12:40 and laid out on the top of Millikan bridge. It was a nice sunny day, and it was a little relaxing. it was then that I started to see the news cameras and reporters…there were so many of them!! And they all wanted to talk to us. I don’t know how many different people I talked to and gave my name to, but the one that I do remember was this lady who was filming something to show back in Taiwan! She noticed that my partner was Taiwanese and so she came over and started talking to us. She wanted Will to speak Chinese, but Will’s Chinese is more conversational, and not so much for describing how to build robots and contests. It was kind of funny, since earlier that day I asked Will how to say “hamster” in Chinese and she said that she didn’t know how. Then, the lady asked Will to say the names of our robots in Chinese! :) The lady told us that we would be subtitled and she interviewed us before and after the competition. It was very interesting, and added to the fun and excitement of the competition.
For all of the stress and nightmares, the actual competition was extremely fun!! The crowd was very enthusiastic and all of the teams put on a good show. Robotic Hamster was eliminated after the first 2 rounds, but it was ok. I was very nervous, and in the 2nd round, I messed up in pushing Hungry into the water. So, Hungry was stuck on the side of the pond with nowhere to go. Just to show how nice our classmates are…the other team drove one of its robots over to help push Hungry into the water.
In the end, we could have done better on contest day, but what is done is done and there is no use beating myself up about it. We tried our best, we learned a lot, and we had lots of fun doing it. If I could go back a year ago, when I was a sophomore and signed up to take this class, I would definitely do it again! For all of the complaining I did about having to go into the shop 4 hours a day/5 days a week for 9 weeks, I would not give any of it up. What is important is that I made amazing memories, and now I can look back at them and laugh 3 times..HA HA HA :) I also learned a lot in this class, about working in a team and dealing with things that come up when working with someone else. I also learned a lot about design…simple is always best. Start of with something simple and straightforward. Don’t try to do anything fancy until you have a simple base and then work up. The 3 teams that were eliminated first all tried to accomplish designs that were fancy. We all had something new and different, which was extremely hard and time consuming, and seemed really awesome in concept, but in reality we should have gone for the simple straightforward approach like the top 3 teams.
We all worked hard. And in a way, we all helped each other through the process. I really enjoyed the time I spent down in the shop with my competitors, and I will really miss it. Now that it is done, I want it back. But, it was enough to be involved in something so epic. That is what is so special about Caltech. I knew that I was going up against my classmates, many of whom had previous machining experience or design experience, and many who are just gifted in the ways of Mechanical Engineering. I would rather compete against some of the best and brightest students in Mechanical Engineering and come out tied for last, than win in a competition where there was no challenge. It is a privilege to get to work alongside and compete with the future top names in ME.
That is about all I have to say. I hope you enjoyed reading, and have fun looking at the pictures. I’m sorry Robotic Hamster couldn’t be an uplifting underdog story, where we came out on top in the end…I guess Disney will not be contacting me for the rights to make a movie…
Team ROBOTIC HAMSTER! Hateful on the left and Hungry on the right :)
Each team had to place both of their robots in the designated square on the starting field. Both robots had to fit in a 60x60x60 cm box, which was confirmed prior to the competition, which is why you can see here, the teams stacked their robots.
Teams had to control their robots from the top of Millikan bridge. We were not allowed to walk around anywhere else on the course, so we had to do everything from that vantage point. This picture also allows you to see all of the people across campus who showed up.
Ramen Cheesesteaks waiting to compete in the final. This robot typically dominated in the mini class deadlines throughout the term, and had very high expectations for contest day. However, their 2nd robot, which was a mini land vehicle, was accidentally driven into Millikan pond in the first round, and so it was no longer functional. They battled the entire competition with only one bot, and still got 2nd place.
The final minute of the competition. Newt N Salamander rushed the course, drove up the ramp, and put balls in their bin, and went to block the ramp before Ramen Cheesestakes could make it to the ramp. Then, one robot stayed on the ramp, while the other robot went and pushed Ramen Cheesesteaks into the corner. For the entirety of the minute, Newt N Salamander kept Ramen Cheesesteaks in this position. As soon as the 3 minutes were over, Newt N Salamander members, Marc and Kevin, leapt off of the bridge and into the water!!! It was a well deserved win, and a good fight :)
The white board with everyone’s records through the different rounds. 3 teams (including us, :( ) were eliminated after the first 2 rounds, and then it went down from there. W is for Win, L for Lose, B for Buy (which was when they went against the TA bot) and F was for False start, and they had a rematch. (some people thought F was for Fail…)
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!
I visited Amsterdam for a brief two and a half days during my vacation. There were a few landmarks and neighborhoods I wanted to checkout, but did not plan the visit in detail. As such, when it came down to destinations with ticketed entries, I had to skip most of them, since they did not have day-of tickets left for sale. Fortunately, I was able to walk around most of the city and it was generally a good time.