CCA Previews ’22: Club Automatica

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By Harmony Lau Jue Eern (22S06I), Chairperson, Zhao Yi Lin (22S02A), Vice-Chairperson, Heng Xin Yu Felicia (22S06O), Quartermaster and Lai Qian Huay (22S06J), Secretary

A pair of Very Lost Friends, Susie & Kris. Where could they be?

Well, the two of you are in the lands of Club Automatica! Welcome to our cosy corner of the campus, where we laugh over our Robots and prepare for the upcoming revolution by our Robot Overlords. More precisely, we are a small group of Robot Enthusiasts who automate with Automates! But what exactly does this entail?

Automatica meets twice every week –  first on Wednesdays from 3 pm to 6 pm, and second as  decided on by your team! We participate in two main competitions every year – the National Robotics Competition (NRC) and Robocup. We typically participate in these competitions in teams of 3 – 4 members.

Our new recruits immediately dive into Robocup, where they have a choice between three categories. The first is Soccer, where our robots go head to head in intense 2v2 soccer matches atop a miniature (but still spacious!) soccer field. Secondly, we have Rescue, where our members create a robot to rescue “victims” (in the form of table tennis balls) and traverse oh-so-perilous terrains like ramps and see-saws. Lastly, we have CoSpace where we forgo the hassle of actually building a physical robot, and write code for a virtual one instead! Our virtual robots compete against others in a race against time, retrieving objects and depositing them in designated spots. 

Later on, recruits may tackle National Robotics Challenge (NRC), World Robotics Olympiad (WRO) tertiary category. Here, we (avengers) assemble delicate creations out of EV3 Lego, all to complete a series of ever-changing tasks.

(from left to right) Soccer robots and Rescue Bot

(from left to right) NRC bot and virtual cospace robot

We put our skills to the test during these competitions. We enjoy the challenge, and we thrive in this competitive environment. 

We had an outstanding performance in Robocup 2021 Nationals with 

Best Presentation, Best Engineering, Best Logbook, Judges’ Commendation (Offensive Strategy), 2 Distinctions, in Soccer; Best Engineering, 2 Distinctions and 1 Merit in Rescue; 1st, 3rd, Most Innovative Strategy, 3 Distinctions and 2 Merits in Cospace.

Three of our teams also qualified for Robocup Internationals, which was unfortunately conducted online this year due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, our teams still rose to the (virtual) challenge, winning multiple awards from various categories. Cospace clinched Best Team Description Paper, while Soccer clinched Best Technical Challenges and Superteam (where we paired up with another team) first place. 

Despite being confined online in the much-beloved Gather town (online game-like meeting platform), it was an unforgettable event where we competed against the best teams from all around the world.

A screenshot from Gather town

Along the wild and arduous Automatica journey, we learn a lot more about engineering and programming. We learned to design Printed Circuit Boards, customise 3D printed models, and program robots in C and Python. We challenge ourselves with complex algorithms in computer vision, probabilistic localisation, and Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) control.

If everything you’ve read sounds foreign and confusing, do not fret! We did not know what these meant at the start of the year either. 

We are a dedicated bunch. It is not uncommon for teams to spend many more hours on CCA nearing competition dates. With tight deadlines and burning desires to win, CCA can get rather rigorous as members cram outside the room in desperate attempts to build their robots up to competition standards, hacking at that one problem session after session, again, and again, and again. You’ll be sure to hear the persistent buzzing of motors running, the click-clacking of our keyboards (and maybe even the faint burning smell of a fried circuit) for days on end. 

Two of our members, hard at work. 

That said, CCA isn’t all doom and gloom. What keeps us coming back each session? It’s the camaraderie as you put your and your friends’ two brain cells together to fix that one pesky bug in your code. It’s the rush of happiness when your robot finally does what it’s supposed to do, and just works. It’s goofing around during lunches and break times, as you morph into Alchemy Club (we love you) and concoct potions of Matcha and Milo, or launch Griffles to Greater Heights.

A small gif collage depicting our shenanigans at Club Automatica. *Pictures taken in accordance with SMMs during the prior phase of Covid-19 measures.

That is what makes Automatica, Automatica

When it comes to learning, we’ve got you covered in all departments.

First, none shall forget our Friendly Approachable (Coach) Kenneth, who helps all of us out in our times of need and often imparts invaluable advice. While we don’t have many lecture-based sessions, we learn just as much through hands-on experiences, reviewing, asking, and learning as we go. Beyond Kenneth, members often consult the Internet or seniors when they need help. We strive to achieve a mix of seniors and juniors in our Robocup teams, ensuring that knowledge is passed on from one batch to the next. Last but not least, also expect to learn with and from your batchmates, who will be a part of your Automatica family for the next two years. 

If you are passionate about robotics and want to work with a team of passionate (and chill) people, do join us! Our only prerequisite is that you come with an open mind and a willingness to learn; experience in related fields would be good but is not required. 

So come to Automatica, where you can learn invaluable skills and make precious memories with friends. 

More images of our shenanigans. 

Automates, roll out.

Pictures courtesy of @uwumatica

*Cover image taken in accordance with SMMs during the prior phase of Covid-19 measures.

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