What a Robot Named 'Inchworm' Can Teach You About Product Development

March 28, 2013

With robotics on the rise in medtech today, we thought we’d highlight longstanding mentorships between Ximedica’s engineers and aspiring young people in the robotics field.

Ximedicans Paul Bertram and Peter Cameron aren’t developing NurseBots with their teams quite yet, but they are helping local high school students build complex robotic systems that perform intricate mechanical movements. The robots are built for the FIRST Robotics Regional competitions series, which challenges teams to complete an entire functional bot in just six weeks. According to Bertram, “These students are amazing! Every day they come to the lab to test, refine and rebuild the mechanism – completely undaunted by their previous mishaps and upsets.”

Last week, Paul participated with his team, ALARM Robotics, and their robot “InchWorm” at the FIRSTRobotics Regional Competition in Boston. Teams were challenged to build a robot that could successfully compete in either of two required events - throwing a Frisbee or climbing a jagged pyramid. Paul’s team chose the pyramid option because they sensed that building a robot to throw a Frisbee through a 12” wide slot would be “insane.”

The arena was filled with teams, coaches, families, and public spectators –
all gathering to watch robots contending for success.

Unfortunately, “InchWorm” kept getting stuck on a sharp corner and falling off the pyramid. Unwilling to recognize defeat, the team voted to abandon the climb and switch over to a pure defense strategy. Paul reflects on the experience, remarking: “This is what I hope these kids take with them when they go to college. You can’t change the game, but you can always change your approach, your technique or your attitude to get around unexpected problems. They teach me more about great engineering than I teach them.”

Paul’s team makes some last-minute changes to their robot.

Today and tomorrow, Peter Cameron—a Research & Development Engineer based out of our Minneapolis office—will be participating with his rookie team in Minnesota’s Regional 10,000 Lakes FIRST Robotics Competition.

In regards to being a first-year team, Cameron says, “We have faced many challenges that are new to the process, including establishing the team, recruiting students, and understanding the rules…all in addition tothe engineering, strategy and logistics.”

Nonetheless, Peter keeps the positivity of the Regional event’s motto in the back of his mind: ‘Where the robots are good-looking and all of the teams are above average.’ He notes his team is at the very least gaining exposure to some of the real-life challenges faced in product development.

About FIRST Robotics:

The FIRST Robotics program, which stands for ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,’ is a not-for-profit public charity that designs accessible programs to motivate young people to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The organization holds a nationwide series of robotics tournaments that allows industry professionals, academics and families to work with local teams, ranging in age from 6 to adult, to tackle six-week challenges in robotics engineering.

For more information, visit the FIRST Robotics Competition’s website.