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GEMS by Sasha, Makeisha, Claire, Hannah, Annice and Emily

We're members of our school's GEMS team. GEMS stands for Girls in Engineering, Math and Science. Our team prepared to participate in a robotics competition, building a robot that completes two tasks. Our question: How do we design a robot that moves quickly and turns in a tight circle?

What did we do?
We compared two basic designs: a four-wheeled robot and a three-wheeled robot. The robot had a programmable brain that received the commands the girls wrote on a computer. We wrote a simple program to make the robot travel in a straight line at top speed, and then turn in as sharp a circle as possible. Once we settled on a design, we added a robotic arm that could pull a latch and place a foam ball into a bin. Then it was off to the competition to put our designs into action!

What did we find out?
We discovered that we got the fastest speed and the tightest turns using a three-wheeled design. We also learned that engineering often involves lots of failures before you succeed. At the robot competition, we had to modify the robot's software to successfully complete the first task, pulling a latch. Once we made the proper software changes, we had to work on the second task, dropping the ball into a bin. We were running out of time and our first design wasn't working, but we made a last-minute change, and our robot worked perfectly!

What can you do?
  • Design your own robot that completes a task you want it to do. Keep a journal of design improvements and keep modifying your robot until you find the design that works best.
  • Look around the house and pick an appliance that does a job for you, like the vacuum cleaner, or a toaster. How does it complete its task? Could you design a better one?
  • Use this technology investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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