By Kang Wendolyn and Esther Woon Sue Ann
Automobile, Automatic, Automation, Automatica… Wait, one of these is not like the other. You may be wondering, what is an “Automatica”? Honestly, we’re also not sure (it has just been that for years!), but we can tell you more about our CCA, and why you should embark on this journey with us as an aspiring roboticist.
Located opposite “My Rest Space” near the Marymount gate, Automatica is a robotics club with dedicated members who take a keen interest in technology. We meet twice a week, once on Wednesday from 2pm to 6pm and once decided by your team.
The highlights of every member’s journey in Automatica are, without a doubt, the competitions we participate in. Every member of Automatica has the chance to participate in two competitions a year: Robocup and National Robotics Competition (NRC).
Robocup is normally held around March and April and comprises different categories members can choose to take part in: Rescue Line, Soccer and CoSpace.
Rescue Line involves a robot having to complete a line track sequence to reach an evacuation zone, where the robot has to ‘rescue’ live and dead victims, which are represented by different coloured ping-pong balls. On top of that, the robot also has to navigate obstacles such as speed bumps or large objects blocking its path, much like navigating through debris in a rescue mission. Interested? Click here to watch what a Rescue Line mission might look like.
Soccer is an exhilarating, high-speed match, requiring extreme precision and accuracy. In a soccer match, teams are allowed 2 robots, a striker and a goalie. The aim is to score as many goals as possible while preventing the opposing team from scoring. Robots must be able to detect the ball and calculate the best possible path to reach it, all the while ensuring it is within the boundaries of the field. Check out a soccer match here!
CoSpace, as its name suggests, comprises two environments, a simulation and a real-life environment. Within the given time frame, robots must collect and deposit objects to earn the highest possible score, with certain combinations of objects helping to boost scores. But as it goes about the mission, it must beware of traps positioned randomly in the playing area. Click here to watch a robot run in the simulation.
After the conclusion of Robocup, we will take a step back to reflect on our experiences before delving into NRC, which is held in September. NRC comprises two components, the presentation and the robot run. The presentation will include research about the theme for the year and your solution to the mission, while the robot run involves completing a specified mission in under 2 minutes. Check out one of the full-score runs done by our very own team!
Over the years, we have clinched many awards in both competitions.
In RoboCup 2022, we achieved 2 Distinctions, Best Engineering Logbook, Best Presentation and overall 2nd for Soccer, 2 Distinctions and overall 1st and 2nd for Rescue and 1 Distinction and overall 1st for Cospace. Our champion rescue team was also invited to participate in RoboCup Internationals hosted by Bangkok, Thailand.
For NRC 2022, our teams went on to win 1st and 2nd for Best Robot Performance Award, 1st for Best Content Award and clinched the overall championship award, qualifying for the 2022 World Robot Olympiad International Finals held in Germany.
Through these competitions, we learn much about engineering and programming. From learning how to design our own printed circuit boards and 3D prints to utilising complex algorithms in computer vision, localisation and Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) control when programming our robot, we are always eager to push the limits and challenge ourselves to learn more about design and technology.
Even if everything sounds foreign to you now, don’t worry! No prior experience is required and everything will be taught as you progress along your Automatica journey. You may face challenges like tearing your hair out as you wonder why your code doesn’t work or worry about whether something is burning, but you will have plenty of support along the way.
Besides our very helpful seniors, we also have our coach, Kenneth, who is always willing to help us out and teach us everything we need to know. Most of our sessions are hands-on rather than lecture-based, allowing us to learn from our various attempts and failures by reviewing our performances and asking for help. Our RoboCup teams are a mix of seniors and juniors, providing juniors with an opportunity to learn from their seniors and ensuring that knowledge is passed on from one batch to the next.
So if you are passionate about robotics and technology, and want to make fond memories with like-minded individuals, Automatica is the CCA for you!