Learning From Our Mistakes

Accidents happen, and mistakes are made - it's the way the world works, at least in our limited experience on this planet. The important thing is to survive and learn from them. We learned a valuable lesson recently - and paid the price of tuition.

We were asked to participate in a robot soccer match as a part of a television program location shoot. Needless to say, we were honored, and more than a little excited. Opportunities like that don't come along often. So we spent a lot of time adjusting Mondai-Noid, our MANOI AT01 robot and creating new motion sequences. We got some last minute help and assistance from one of our friends, which we really appreciated. On the morning of the game we thought we definitely had all of our ducks in line. This was going to be fantastic.

An hour later. we were totally depressed when our robot not only refused to obey remote control commands, he actually started mindlessly walking around in circles right in the middle of the action!

Thankfully, he did manage to get in enough play time prior to loosing his remote control ability that he did appear in one very short segment of the broadcast program, so it wasn't a total loss.

What went wrong? Where did we go astray?

Simple, propelled by our enthusiasm we focused on the 'flash' - the really exciting aspects of our robot like its motions, and totally ignored the basics. Our single biggest mistake (there were quite a few that we won't delve into at this point) was not paying enough attention to the shock experienced by the robot in operation.

Robots fall down! They fall down frequently - especially when you are still learning the ropes. And they fall down frequently in competition, loosing their balance, slipping, running into each other, pushing each other down.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it. Yet we totally ignored the implications of this obvious fact, to our detriment.

In this particular instance, we mounted the receiver module for the robots remote control on the robots rear panel using Velcro tape. Normally, the robots plastic body shells would provide some cushioning and protection against the shock of falls, but we decided not to use the standard shells in favor of a custom head and costume that gives Mondai-Noid his unique character and image.


The problem was that this approach left the connector on the back of the receiver module without any cushioning. Of course, everything worked fine during our pre-game preparation at home, and while we were setting up the robot at the venue. But, a few minutes of competitive action, and a couple of falls later, the connector wires looked like this:


The edge of the connector body, even though it is totally blunt, was forced through the wire insulation and even managed to break the strands completely in the white wire. So, when they would occasionally touch the robot would seem to be okay for a moment until they separated again.

In the heat of the competition there was no time to troubleshoot and fix the problem, so Mondai-Noid was pulled off the field and replaced by another robot. Next time we'll know better, and will spend a lot more time trying to figure out what might go wrong, and how to avoid problems like this.


3 thoughts on “Learning From Our Mistakes

  1. [Report:]
    Accidents do happen, but that’s how human learn. Most robots nowadays don’t have self-check or learning ability, and totally rely on their human developers – so the more we human learn, the better robots they would be.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    [End of report]

  2. One thing I have learned about connectors such as that is that the point where the wire exits them is a point of failure. This is also true for battery connection wires. We usually slop a peice of heatshring tubing over them and heat it until it is snug. This causes a more mild bend and can prevent this… or at least slow the process down. Sometimes we even inject a bit of epoxy just before we apply heat… as an extra measure.

    But nothing works as well as a full test before showtime. I brought my 250 pound robot arm to a contest as a show&tell… after running flawlessly all night long the day before… it bumped the table and blew a fuse on one of the motor drivers. With luck and a bit of planning… we had extra fuses and only had a momentary delay.

    Good luck with future events!

  3. That’s a lesson hard learned by many R/C enthusiasts. I’d love to know how many times I’ve pinched wires when installing a radio box cover on a car or truck.

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