Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Davina Is A Geek Pt. 2

This time I'll begin with a picture, instead of ending with one.

I understand that now, in light of the picture, calling myself a geek has suddenly become pretentious. However, someone else showed me this thing and told me I was a geek, so I think it might be okay to say that. That was when I was telling her about my adventures on my robotics team.

Ah, yes. Robotics

A few months into the school year, I joined (at her invitation) a team that my friend Alix has been on for the past two or three years. I really didn't know exactly what I was getting into. At that point, I still held a pretty cliche mental image of robots as these clunky humanoid constructions of metal or as advanced artificial intelligence. So it was interesting to find out that the robot we were building was pretty much a box with things attached to it, and we were mostly designing its functions to be remote-controlled by, well, us. Also, we have very specific tasks that we need the robot to accomplish: collect raquet-balls from the ground in some way, sort between magnet-balls and regular ones, put them into crates, grasp and lift crates, rotate them, stack them--and, of course, good basic mobility is always important.
I spent much of my time just listening at first, which was already confusing to my thoroughly mechanically-illiterate brain.

Axle collars, nylon locking nuts, channels, bushings, long bolts and short bolts, threaded rods, servo motors...

Sorting all that out was just like BLUGHAGHH it'll take me the whole year just to figure out what everything means and how they work together so I'll never contribute to ideas for building the robot so why on earth did I sign up for this in the first place??

However, I'm getting there. I'm competent enough as a pair of working hands, at least, with enough experience now to know how to deal with the basic mechanics. I like to say that the scar on my knuckle is a battle scar, but it really is from when I accidentally scraped my hand across a gear while reaching for a hex key too hastily. Alix and I occasionally race to see who can get four bolts unattached from the steel channels first. I've beat her a few times.
We have lots of opportunities for these races, because we are constantly taking parts of the robot apart, tweaking them, and putting them together again.
It's like, we attach the mechanism to the robot, test, well that didn't work, what went wrong? let's try switching the gears around, detach the mechanism, do whatever, reattach. Test again.

It is so cool. You get to take the theoretical and make it real within a few hours--from an idea in the mind to a working prototype almost immediately. I'm learning a lot: problem-solving, teamwork, and new motor skills (heh), among other things. And when we actually get to drive the robot, it's like a video game in real life, which is just awesome.

So yeah, that's another way that I'm a geek. I create and fix really cool stuff, though that's not through much aptitude on my part. I just got the opportunity to be this kind of geek, and I took it.
If you ever get that opportunity, and you've got the time to spare, I advise you to take it.
It's definitely rewarding.

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