PROPOSAL OF THE MICROFACTORY ROBOTIC COMPETITION, OF THE FACTORY ENVIRONMENT AND OF ITS OFFICIAL ROBOT WHICH IS ALSO A LOW COST VERSATILE EDUCATIONAL ROBOT
This paper presents MicroFactory – a simplified version of the Robot@Factory competition.
This version of the competition was conceived to be low-cost and easily implementable in a small space, be it a classroom or the school robotics club. The factory scenario size was originally 3.5m by 2.5m. The floor is now an A0 printed sheet and the warehouses and machines dimensions are so that they can be 3D printed or made out of LEGOTM bricks. Both machines and parts had active elements with leds; now they are passive.
Robot@Factory is a Portuguese robotic competition whose first edition was held in 2011 in Lisbon. The scenario of the competition simulates a factory which has an Incoming Warehouse, an Outgoing Warehouse, and 8 processing machines. The robots must collect, transport and position the materials, self-localize and navigate while avoiding collisions with walls, obstacles and other robots.
There are three rounds of increasing complexity:
• In the first round the robot has to take 5 parts directly from the Incoming Warehouse to the Outgoing Warehouse, as fast as possible.
• In the second round some of the five parts present in the Incoming Warehouse must be placed in a machine for processing; after the completion of this operation they can be carried into the Outgoing Warehouse.
• In the third round, there are two types of machines (type A and type B).
Before being taken to the Outgoing Warehouse some of the parts should be processed sequentially, first by a machine of type A, then by a machine of type B; some should be processed by a machine of type B; the other parts can be taken directly. During this round the teams can use two robots simultaneously.
Robot@Factory poses challenges like dynamic task scheduling, robot cooperation, trajectory planning, robot navigation with obstacle avoidance, robot self-localization and materials identification and manipulation. Related research contributes to improve AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicle systems) technology. Robot@Factory is now integrated in Festival Nacional de Robótica, a yearly event which attracts lots of public, contributing also to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) popularization. MicroFactory’s main contribution is different – enhancing learning and the undergraduate experience in robotics.
While Robot@Factory is intended for groups with high skills, MicroFactory is supposed to attract younger and less skilled people. So, the proposed challenges were simplified:
• the team can choose were the robot starts every round;
• in rounds 2 and 3 the types of parts which are in each place of the Incoming Warehouse are known from the start;
• in round 3 there is only one robot…
It was conceived an official robot for the MicroFactory competition. It’s a 3D printed robot, based on Arduino and cheap common electronic parts. CAD files for the mechanics (and every bit of the factory scenario), the hardware schematics and most of the software can be made available to the organizers or teachers trying to implement didactic experiences involving robotics. The challenge may then be reduced from developing a robot from scratch to implementing just a small part like programming the localization algorithm. The presented work is part of a wider Open Source project, aiming to develop project-based collaborative didactic experiences involving robotics to foster STEM education, and low-cost 3D printed educational robots based on generic electronics to support those experiences.