The world of robotics could lead a group of Dripping Springs High students abroad this winter.
Dripping Springs’ Turbo Tigers team, comprised of sophomores Bryce and Jason Fitzpatrick, Cole Scott and senior Dallas Hudson, was selected as one of 22 teams to compete at the Land Rover 4×4 In Schools World Finals. The event will be held in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December.
The primary goal of the 4×4 competition is to build a remote controlled (RC) car and take it through a series of obstacles. The vehicles are scored based on how quickly the car overcomes the course, and also incorporates overall design and presentation.
Students are also required to present and sell their product to a panel of judges, who ask specific questions to each team member regarding the vehicle. Jad Jadeja, Dripping Springs High robotics, programming and engineering teacher, said the presentation portion is an essential tool as many engineering students think the profession is purely tactile.
Students obtain presentation skills, such as avoiding talking over each other.
“It’s more than just building stuff. It’s doing the design work, it’s testing and communicating and talking to people and selling the idea,” Jadeja said.
Another component is building the machine itself. Bryce Fitzpatrick said each part takes time, ranging from the guts of the car, to the exterior shell. The team, which has a competitive edge, focused on building everything from scratch, Jason Fitzpatrick said.
Students use Computer Automated Design (CAD) tools to plan out the car. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of the car is done in CAD software, Jadeja said. Students use 3D and laser printers to build certain components.
But the team used trial and error when the members actually went through the building phase. While a design may be created to perfection, it may not be tangible in real life.
With 3D blocks costing $20, students also quickly gained a crash course in budgeting.
“They quickly learn to go through the design process and try to get as many kinks out of their design,” Jadeja said.
The project overall was “not super hard to do,” Hudson said. The toughest challenges were having the time to complete the tasks, along with programming the machine.
What the final product could include are sensors that detect light, which allows headlights to automatically turn on. The team is also adding an autonomous parallel parking feature, along with a GPS tilt sensor for steep terrain.
The Turbo Tigers are working on a few “secret items” for their machine, Jason Fitzpatrick said. Currently, the team believes they are the only 4×4 team in the world that can display telemetry data in real time during the competition.
“While the car is running, we will have a monitor set up and we can track information about the car on our monitor,” Jason Fitzpatrick said.
For some of the features, such as autonomous parking, the students had to branch out into relatively unknown territory. While automated parking is available in many of today’s vehicles, Jadeja said car companies haven’t made that technology public.
Giving students the chance to forge new ground that’s doable, while also teaching them about the world of science, is what Jadeja strives for.
“We want to make sure they know there are going to be failures,” Jadeja said. “One of the big things students are scared of is getting it wrong. It takes a few things to go wrong to realize, yeah, NASA also got things wrong, too.”
Funding the trip to Abu Dhabi now becomes the next big hurdle for the Turbo Tigers. The cost of airplane tickets, hotel and cost to ship their booth and machine is estimated at $16,500.
The team created a gofundme account to crowd source the cost.
For the students, the chance to compete continues to foster their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), said Bryce Fitzpatrick. Hudson said use of CAD programming and tools is allowing him to get more involved in those fields.
Providing real world experience is an added benefit of the competitions, Jadeja said. He envisions more teams being formed at Dripping Springs as interest in robotics and programming grows.
“The more we do in terms of offering them real world experience is great, because sometimes things can be boring and dry,” Jadeja said. “This is taking it to the next level.”
Want to help the Turbo Tigers reach their goal? You can donate to their gofundme page at www.gofundme.com/send-turbo-tigers-to-abu-dhabi