A Wheel Challenge in Robotics

  • Recycle Rush 

    A Wheel Challenge in Robotics


    Every year, in preparation for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition,  the Sayville High School Robotics Team members and their mentor, Mr. Coon, use a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules to design and build a 130-pound robot—and they only have six weeks to do it.


    FIRST is a nation-wide program, founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur, Dean Kamen, with an imperative, singular focus of exciting more young people about the fun, accessibility, and importance of science and engineering as a career field. The FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of a sport with the rigors of science and technology.   Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, robotic teams from high schools across the country are challenged to build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It is as close to “real world” engineering as a student can get!


    This year’s challenge named the “Recycle Rush” is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each.  Robots score points by stacking storage bins on scoring platforms.  To meet the challenge robots would be required to maneuver in very tight spaces to grasp and lift storage totes positioned closely together at the beginning of each match.


    As the robotics club worked on the project, the Sayville students determined that the rubber and plastic wheels included in the standard “kit of parts”  would not provide the level of maneuverability required to allow a robot to approach and lift storage totes placed in close proximity to each other.  Instead, the students decided to utilize omni wheels (pictured below), that will allow the robot to move easily and laterally in any direction with little effort for maximum maneuverability.


    “Making the decision to change from normal rubber-based wheels to omni wheels posed a unique challenge due to the differences in the width across wheels hubs in relation to a wheel shaft designed to support rubber based wheels,” Mr. Coon explained.   “To overcome this challenge, Michael Nyman, a robotics team member, utilized 3D product-design knowledge he learned in the Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology class to design custom spaces that would allow the onmi wheels to mount on a standards wheel shaft.   After designing the 3 different wheel shaft spacers in SolidWorks Michel utilized the new 3D printer purchased to support CAD technology classes to print out the plastic wheel shaft spacers (picture below) used on this year’s robot.”


    The Sayville Robotics team will compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University at the end of March.  

Student examines the omni wheel spacers he designed and printed on the MakerBot 3D printer.
Omni wheel and shaft with the red and green wheel spacers  designed by robotics team member.