In my techno thriller Counting from Zero, I write about a botnet, short for robot network – a group of compromised computers organized using the Internet to act in coordinated ways. These ‘bots are used to launch packet flooding attacks called distributed denial of service attacks, or DDOS. In short they are bad news, and my protagonist invests considerable energy in tracking down the botnet to try to neutralize it.
Today, I’m writing about a very different ‘bot – a robot that I have helped build as part of the robotics club at my son’s school. I’m taking the day off work to help setup in readiness for tomorrow’s robotics competition.
This is my first year as a mentor of roborebels robotics club at St Louis Priory School, Team #1329 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). For the past 7 weeks we have been constructing the robot and writing the Java software to control it. I have really enjoyed the experience. From watching the kickoff video, reading the rule book, brainstorming the design, to actually constructing and driving the robot: it has been great! I’ve been really impressed with the way the high school kids have taken on the challenge. At the start, it is obvious some have never used power tools before, but by the end, they don’t think twice as they move from the drill press to the chop saw.
This year’s game is called “Logomotion”, and the robots have to hang inflated tubes on pegs on the wall. It should be a lot of fun! The day when we hung our first tube on a hook 10 ft (3m) up in the air was really a thrill. Now we will see if we can do it in the competition!
After spending a day getting our robot ready and practicing the game, I’m just amazed at the variety and creativity of all the groups. We all started with the same goals and description, but came up with so many different designs, shapes, and styles. Now, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s competition. And it is nice to be working with a good ‘bot for a change.