Freshman Orientation With a Twist, Robotics Style!

The orientation event crew driving a robot across campus

This year we decided to surprise the incoming freshman with a visit from our one and only B Team competition bot as they got a taste of the diverse nature of the Branham campus! We wanted to let them take a dip into Robotics and show off our club for the cool stuff we make. Especially before people get discouraged by the nerdy stigma and the idea that you have to be outstandingly smart’ to join Robotics. This was a cool way for us to show off the product of Robotics club and let more people get an idea of what we do before creating their own opinions as the school year starts. 

Freshmen grabbing candy from the robot as it drives up to greet them

The bot we ended up using as the face of our club at freshman orientation was the competition bot B Team built over the summer! Equipped with a flywheel and speedy intake system, it sure got eyes turning. But, this was all for show, we wouldn’t want any freshman casualties after all. Instead, we had a metal candy basket that we filled to the brim with an assortment of candies! We also had a pole attached to our bot for posters, but it didn’t work out that well and we ended up removing the whole configuration to let our bot run smoother. The assorted c-channel-made pole was definitely not enough to support an entire 24-inch poster. 

The B Team bot used at orientation with a basket filled with candy

Although it may have been awesome to cruise around campus, showing off what you can make in Robotics club and encouraging people to join, it was not a smooth sailing ride. From time constraints to motors breaking and our candy basket falling apart, it certainly wasn’t easy to take a competition bot and turn it into a cruising friendly face for our incoming freshman (and possible future members!). We had initially planned a whole other bot to use at orientation that students could interact with, but we were extremely short on time. Our cortex breaking at the last minute and causing an entire wipeout of our saved code didn’t help with the time constraints either. We had a team member frantically writing last-minute code just to have our bot drive around campus (no flywheel action or intake system included, unfortunately). Even worse, we had two motors break during the two days leading to the grand orientation event. With no real screwdrivers in our possession, it was a very tedious task and made our success an even closer call than precedent. Our intake system motors had to be sacrificed for the cause of a working drivetrain. We pursued though! Only one mid-way break was needed for us to fix our basket (which had been slowly losing screws) and refill our candy and we were smooth sailing (finally)! 

Robotics member fixing a loose screw from the bot in the parking lot

Overall, we would call it a success! Throughout the day we saw tons of people marvel at our bot and talk about how cool our metal accomplice was. Spinning our bot in little circles and showing a less intensive version of Robotics, where we turn a mass of metal into a beacon for new beginnings was really fun for us all! Everyone loved the candy and was fascinated by a little robot driving over to them with a personal candy delivery. It was a fantastic sight to see and a rewarding experience after a long summer of bot-building!