Pick, Pack, Punt: How Robotics Does Distance Learning

Pick, Pack, Punt: How Robotics Does Distance Learning

Since quarantine began, the whole team has been working hard to create educational opportunities for our students. We’re achieving this through an offseason competition specifically tailored to the unique circumstances we find ourselves in. Pick, Pack, Punt (PPP) is the result of hard work from the whole team (especially leadership), with a goal of engaging both new and old students with hands-on robotics. 

Students are split into teams of five, with more experienced students leading younger ones to build unique robots. The competition consists of a three level playing field, each presenting its own unique challenge for the teams to overcome. Each level introduces a variety of challenges, which can be anything from designing a robot that can launch balls across the field to programming a fully autonomous robot.

In addition to providing students with a fun and creative way to gain competition experience, PPP is also a great intro to STEM and the glories of real FRC. Students need to design, assemble, and test robots in a quick and efficient manner. Additionally, students are challenged to code an autonomous AI-driven robot and program the control systems, which is a valuable skill for FRC.

Of course, coordinating this has not been without its difficulties. The strain COVID has put on the online shopping industry has created major holdup for supplies, with some components being delayed as much as two weeks. But even with these outside variables, each and every team persevered and adapted to the challenging conditions. It has been an inspiration to see the effort and intelligence of every team.

One important aspect of PPP is the incorporation of VEX, a STEM tool designed to teach newer students the basics of robotics and mechatronics. VEX focuses on three skills central to robotics: CAD, mechanical engineering, and programming. Because of its streamlined nature and great flexibility, VEX is a perfect platform for collaboration during the pandemic.

Through our implementation of VEX and PPP we hope to make this time productive and informative for all team members. It will be a valuable learning experience for newer students and teach older students about leadership and the importance of organization. Even with the logistical strain the pandemic has put on the team, we still truly believe that we will emerge as a better, stronger, and more prepared team once the FRC season finally begins. 

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