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THE ROTARY
BASKET SORTER:
FROM IDEA
TO REALITY
A BEE HIVE
FOR BALL
STORAGE
Robot design usually begins with brainstorming to generate
lists of possible solutions, in hopes that the best solution will
rise to the top. A successful team encourages its members to
apply their knowledge and not to be afraid to present ideas.
When many designs are brought to the table, creativity blos-
soms, and even more avenues are opened for development
and enhancement.
Team 33, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, was able to prioritize
needs and to explore various design options before finalizing
plans to build a robot. The end result of its brainstorming effort
was an imaginative way to store, organize, and regulate game
balls. This team, known as the Killer Bees, constructed a
machine that gathered balls in a swarm-like fashion, much like
a swarm of bees returning to a nest.
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TEAM 33
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A side view of Team 33’s robot shows the
final design that included ball collection, storage,
and sorting capabilities.
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| FIRST Robots
Brainstorming: What Do
We Need?
Team 33 determined while brainstorm-
ing that it wanted a robot that could
hold more than 20 balls. Having that
many balls on board meant the team
would have the capability to score
numerous times. Also, by controlling so
many balls, they would be able to keep
balls from their opponents.
Other elements of its plan included a
design for loading the balls from the
human player, a means to collect balls
from the playing field floor, an ability to
score in the high goal, and a way to
mount the ramp at the end of a match.
After reviewing this list of functions, the
team determined that a ball storage and
delivery system was a major component
in most game strategies. The robot
would have to be able to hold a large
quantity of balls, handle a continuous
feed of these balls, adapt to the different
properties of each ball, and, most
importantly, avoid jamming.
With these criteria, the team began to
add details to its design. Several highly
desired abilities were identified, such as
a storage capacity for 20-40 balls and
the ability to deliver one ball at a time at
a rate of two balls per second. The
team considered a ramp design to
organize the balls, but found that it eas-
ily jammed, was heavy, and was incon-
sistent in its ball-feed rate. Experimen-
tation with large bins showed that this
storage form often resulted in ball jams
at the exits, so that idea was also aban-
doned. Single, vertical columns could
provide a controlled feed delivery rate
but were limited by the number of balls
that could be stored. After considering
different designs, Team 33 focused its
energy on a large bin equipped with a
sorting device.
It All Starts With A
Prototype
A preliminary, small-scale prototype was
constructed using cardboard and golf
balls to test the viability of the storage
and sorting system. The success of this
prototype encouraged the team and led
to the construction of a full-sized mock-
up made of wood. The mockup allowed
the designers to better visualize the
geometric restraints they would
encounter.
Computer-aided design software pro-
vided further analysis of the design; a
model of the storage system determined
that six balls could fit into a 12-sided
basket structure. The entire structure
was contained within the team’s size
restriction for this part of the robot.
Since this storage method would satisfy
the desired characteristics, work began
on fine-tuning the details of the mecha-
nisms to support the storage cylinder.
A model was constructed from cardboard to arrange golf balls, which determined how to best
arrange the foam balls in a storage container.
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A full-size wooden prototype of the storage
bin was constructed to test the movement of a
preliminary sorting plate and its operation with
the foam balls.
An AutoCAD drawing was made to size the
bin and the 12 sides that would radially store the
foam balls.
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