Meet the 2013 VEX Competition Robots

"The Twins"

Romulus (left) and Remus (right)

Named for the presumably mythological twins from the legend of Rome's founding, Romulus and Remus were the BHE Robotics Team's first creations entered in VEX Robotics competition. As their names would suggest, the robots were nearly identical when they competed for the State Championship at Arkansas Tech in February of 2013.

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Romulus (left) and Remus (right) freshly completed, the night before the State Championship

To better understand how these robots work and why they are designed as they are, here is an animation about the 2013 game, Sack Attack, and how it's played.

The strategy dictating the design of Romulus, the first of the robots, included collecting bags using a front-mounted blade or spatula, tossing the bags into a dump bed behind, and then dumping that bed (loaded with up to 20 sacks) into the trough standing in the center of the ring. The dump bed and blade could then be used to protect sacks that had been deposited into the trough from opposing robots attempting to de-score. It was anticipated that this simple, robust design would perform well at the state level of competition.

Why Two Identical Robots?
The first was not the only strategy conceived by the Bryant team. A second robot of radically different design began construction weeks later. The second robot, code-named Spinnnn-Sir, included a flail-style "feeder" that would eat up sacks, feeding them onto a actuated conveyor belt to be fed back into the trough when reversed. This design was much more complicated in execution than that of Romulus, but certainly had advantages. As a matter of fact, the majority of robots at the World Championship level of competition adopted variations on this design. Well executed robots of this "feeder" design can load and unload bags quickly and can often de-score from the trough just as quickly. It was believed that these two robot designs would work very well together during the elimination portion of the tournament.

BHE student working on the new deisgn               The nearly-completed Spinnnn-Sir

Unfortunately, Spinnnn-Sir's construction began too late to allow ample troubleshooting before the state competition. While the feeder did show promise and was almost operational, it was decided to build a clone of the tried, tested and then-nameless dozer-looking robot that was competition ready.

Birth of Remus
Less than three days before the state competition in Russellville, construction of a near-twin to the the first began. Minor upgrades with theoretically great advantages were implemented in the younger twin. A month of working with the older twin allowed for lessons to be learned and modifications to be considered. This rapid construction of a ready-to-go robot was a demonstration of what can be done when modifying an existing design rather than beginning from a blank page. Thanks to the near-identical nature of the robots, programming modifications could be made to both robots quickly and easily, which proved to be of great value at their first competition.

On the night before the state competition, motors and omni-wheels were removed from Spinnnn-Sir and given to the freshly assembled clone. As a sentimental gesture, Spinnnn-Sir's cortex was used in the new robot, allowing the dismantled robot to attend and compete in spirit (all the way to the World Championship even). This is how and why Bryant Hornet Engineering arrived at Arkansas's first VEX Robotics Competition with two identical robots.

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BHE Robots
Romulus (left) and Remus (right) pose with the VEX Excellence Award

Remus, with team 5691B, won the day. Piloted by Isaiah Stefan, Remus also won first place in the VEX Driver Skills Challenge.
Fun fact: Remus, modeled after Romulus, was constructed in less than 3 days.

Romulus had a rough day (needed a couple quick repairs), but performed very well. If not for a technicality, Romulus and team 5691W would have been sitting in the #1 spot after qualification rounds with Remus and team 5691B in second. Romulus also placed 3rd in the Driver Skills Challenge, piloted by Jonathan Austin.

See the full results from the state competition here.