Two high school robotics teams from Pittsburgh, Pa. recently used products from igus, a German-based manufacturer of engineered plastics with a presence in East Providence, R.I., to set four world records in this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge global robotics competition.
Team #8393 — The Giant Diencephalic BrainSTEM Robotics Team, captained by senior James Walton — joined forces with the rookie team they have been mentoring this season (Team #6931 — the Substantial Monocephalic BrainSTEM Robotics team) to set their third world record at the South Central Regional Qualifier in York, Pennsylvania. The teams set the record for the most points scored in the 2018 FTC Challenge: Relic Recovery. This challenge requires robots to collect and score glyphs (foam cubes) in various patterns, retrieve jewels, transfer relics, park on balancing stones, and navigate to specific parts of the playing field — sometimes autonomously.
The BrainSTEM robots include spinning collectors, elevating depositing-platforms and robotic arms all built onto fast moving omnidirectional drivetrains. The team discovered the Drylin Linear slides last season and incorporated them into that year’s robot that went on to win the Design Award at the 2017 FIRST World Championship. This season, the two teams have integrated the Drylin T-profile slides and the Drylin N-series slides into their designs to create robust lifts for their scoring mechanisms and to form the core of their extendable robotic arms.
Both teams credit the drylin Linear slides with allowing their engineered robots to be extremely light and compact – and to have fast, smooth scoring mechanisms. The teams set two world records on the same day at an event in Ohio back in December and subsequently held that record until their big score at the Pennsylvania tournament in late January.
In its most recent competitions, the team won the Ohio State Championship and competed in the First Tech Challenge Super-Regional North Championship, where it earned a berth to compete in the world championships in April in Detroit.
“The igus products really help with compactness and efficiency,’’ said Walton. “The alternatives are big, steel drawer glides that are heavy, awkward and get dust inside them. The non-lubricated glide is extremely smooth, sturdy and consistent – and really, really fast.” Walton and his teams have been using igus’ T-Profile and N-Series slides that need no lubrication, are resistant to dirt and offer low vibration and noise and an extended service life.
The teams were introduced to igus products through their senior mentor, Gordon Walton, a semi-retired research and development specialist who has used a range of igus products. They’ve found creative applications for the drylin linear slides, the iglide bearings, barstock and 3D printing materials.
“They can be used in many different applications,’’ Walton said. “The fact that they are self-lubricating and lightweight make them suitable option for many applications.”
The BrainSTEM teams are composed of students drawn from 10 different schools in the Pittsburgh area. The senior team features 10 students in grades 9-12. The junior team is comprised of seven students in grades 4-8 but competes in the high school competitions.
All of the students are alumni of the FIRST LEGO League robotics competitions, a program that they now help to run in Western Pennsylvania with their non-profit sponsor BrainSTEM Learning, Inc. Together they are making a difference in their community, teaching younger kids about STEM and putting on 17 other robotics-related events for elementary and middle-school students – including a massive, Grand Championship for 1,000 local students. For more information and to check FTC season statistics, visit www.ftcstats.org.