The Robot Challenge is very much a Team Event, but this has been a strange year, and as we watched coronavirus social distancing and restrictions getting tighter, we soon saw it would be unlikely we’d be able to run our teams in a safe manner, even if schools has not been closed on March 23.
To make use of the work many of the teams had already put into their robots and the lessons they had learned, the Robot Committee came up with the idea of running a Written Reports Competition for those teams that had completed building their robots before their schools closed. That way the Written Reports could be prepared as part of a stay-at-home assignment, without exposing students to the virus.
An e-mail went out to all schools that had registered for the project and we found that 3 schools and possibly 30 teams would be willing and eager to participate.
Scott Godeke said he could get 11 engineers who would be willing to judge Written Reports on-line, and Ben Menachery developed the procedures to enable this to happen. Well over 100 e-mails communicated requirements and replied to questions, and the judges did a fantastic job getting the material turned in and processed.
These judges were Syed Ahmad, Tim Cash, Holly Cyrus (from the New Jersey Section), Don Herres, Danny Jordan, Charlie Karr, Dave Kisak, Ben Menachery, Barin Nag, Bill Semancik, and Dick Worsham from the Baltimore Section. Thank you all very much!
We’d also like to thank Jeff Friedhoffer for setting up the final results on our web-site.
In order to simulate the interaction that normally occurs during the Oral Presentations, we asked our judges to add some additional check-offs and remarks not normally communicated to the teams, but which we hoped would be helpful, under the circumstances, both for students and teachers.
All the data went into a spreadsheet, which was used to generate the reports that went out to the teachers and students. Overall, it was a lot of work, so again many thanks to the judges and everyone involved! It was spread over 2 weeks, but we hope to get back next year to just the 4 hours that we generally spend on this task at Northrup Grumman!
Our only regret is that we did not have a project for the kids that did not complete their robots prior to their schools closing. We have, however, offered them (and all the others) the opportunity to participate in next year’s (hopefully) complete Robot Challenge at no additional charge.
Neville Jacobs, Director, Student Activities, IEEE Baltimore Section