He stressed that the kids learn a variety of skills that can possibly “jump start” future technical careers by teaching: leadership, teamwork, presentations, computer aided design, programming, how to use machine shop tools and 3D printing.
“We emphasize letting the kids do the work, and as mentors we guide and teach them concepts like tolerance, structural design, project management and other skills,” said Pickl.
Their winning robot had more than 1,000 parts, many of which were fabricated from aluminum stock by the kids or printed by Pickl’s 3D printer. Additionally, they learned about affordability during their design project.
“The vertical lift, which has to lower and lift the robot from a lunar lander mockup as part of the game was driven more by finding an affordable bearing ($1 instead of $10 each), and designing around it since the lift needed 16 bearings,” he said. “The team has to raise its own funding; so managing cost, schedule and performance is a key skill for the students to learn.”
Apparently patience was a key component to the team’s winning project because Pickl mentioned that during the season there were several subsystems that were redesigned as lessons were learned during their competitions: the vertical lift has two versions; the horizontal slide went through five versions, and the game piece collector and scoring system went through four design changes throughout the seven-month season.
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