, winner of 6.270
Here is some advice if you are deadset on winning:
1. First, the best robot often does not win in single or double
elimination tournaments. If there are 5 rounds of single elimination,
that means that you need to have a better than 95% chance of winning
each round to have an 80% chance of winning the whole thing.
2. Most people will build non-functional / barely functional machines.
The same people could have built much better machines in a single day
if they had went with a simpler design.
3. Start planning before IAP
. Look at old contest
rules/pictures/tapes. Make sure you have a schedule set up.
4. Make something that works fast. Halfway though IAP, you need to
have something that can score points, and probably would make it to
top 10 in the contest.
5. Spend more time on it than anyone else, from day one.
6. The people running the class want to help you. Use their help
early, as they will have nothing to do early on, and then later the
whole class will want their help to get something working.
7. Get rule clarifications often. In 6.270, we got a clarification
that we could run our machine off of the board power, which made it
much better. The ruling was announced to the all the teams, but no
one else took advantage of it, so it really only benefited us. If you
ask for clarifications, it's likely to be about points that could
8. Day of the contest, use a checklist. Create a setup procedure.
Every year, several teams in 6.270 lose a round because they forget to
turn the power switch on, on their machine.
I asked the staff a bunch of things -
"If my robot were small enough to drive into a goal, I would get double points for both having balls with the chassis, and for having balls in the goal?" - no.
"Can I use biology on my robot?" - sure, bacteria.. whatever.
"What about higher-level animals like mammals: dogs and rodents?" - um.. sure.
So I immediately out to find a dog to train to chase after balls and stash them in goals.
Unfortunately, they modified their decision to:
"Biology that does not smell, goop up your computer, mess up the field, make
sounds or are considered harmful to the organism is considered okay (ie, a
plant) but any use of biology should be cleared with Ben first."
and since I'm unwilling to train a dog to not bark, I listened to Nellie McKay's "The Dog Song" while putting the finishing touches on my mechatronic fetch-bot, instead.