Thomas Jefferson
Botball Robotics

We're a team of talented high school students who build a new and innovative robot each year for the international Botball competition: a double-elimination style Robotics challege where teams win by earning the most points. Teams consists of eight to twelve members, and each team is responsible for designing two robots. Skills required for Botball include teamwork, engineering, coding, and testing.

How We Make Robots



First we study the game docs and strategize a plan that both gets the most points and is reasonable to accomplish with our busy schedules. We brainstorm and discuss various mechanisms to accomplish the desired tasks. During this phase, we also build the game board to get a physical understanding of the game objects.



The 2 robots we build must only consist of legal parts, which change year to year: mostly lego technic and aluminum channel. The parts are often weak or imprecise (too much wiggle room), so engineering strong, simple, and lightweight components is vital to a successful robot. Because the robots have a starting size constraint, all mechanisms must start condensed and later expand with code.



We program each robot in C++ to complete the tasks in the specified order. The robots need to travel around the game board while simultaneously orienting their claws and lifts to manipulate the game pieces to accomplish a task. Some tasks require as much as a centimeter of accuracy, so programming often becomes an arduous task.



Planning robot tasks is one thing, but programming the robots to function properly is another. Repeatedly running robots on the test board is integral to success in the competition. Testing is unpredictable and always highlights unexpected flaws in our design. This step can never be fully finished, so the best we can hope for is a robot that works most of the time.