Vicki Niu, Ethan Takla, Ida Chow, MacLean Freed, & Jeffery Wang, Lincoln High School; with Kingsum Chow, Intel
This paper explores the challenges of attaining engineering quality in robotics through the experiences of the Lincoln High School robotics team, the Nanites.
In robotics, engineering quality in hardware-software co-design is important. While software is written in the abstract world, it is executed on robot’s hardware, which interacts with the physical world to accomplish its missions. The quality of the interactions between the robot’s sensors, motors, and the physical world is critical to the success of the missions.
Testing software quality on a robot is different from testing software on an information system. In the physical world, the state of a robot is never precisely known. Sensor readings inevitably contain errors and often provide insufficient information. The robot’s motions, no matter how well controlled, are inexact. As a result, accomplishing a task using a robot requires tolerance of some error. Testing software quality on a robot in the physical world thus requires a different mindset than testing software quality in the information technology world.
Through the case study of building and testing a robot with motors and sensors, this paper characterizes the uncontrollable and variable environmental factors encountered in the physical world and the uncertainties from sensor readings, especially those regarding the location of the robot.
The contributions of this paper are:
- To share the lessons learned from striving for engineering quality in robotics and hardware-software co-design.
- To demonstrate that high school students are inspired to learn advanced sciences and mathematics not simply for exams, but for robotics competitions, and the sake of learning.
The authors are members of the Lincoln High School robotics team “The Nanites”. They presented a paper at PNSQC two years ago as a FIRST LEGO League team. In 2010, they received the first place programming award in the FIRST LEGO League World Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. The Nanites became a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team in 2010, upon entering high school. In addition to striving for hardware and software excellence, the Nanites are very involved in educating youth in the Portland metropolitan area about robotics through camps, workshops, and demos. More information about the team is available at http://nanites.zymichost.com