Robotics Brainstorming

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Waving our banner wildly, we counted down the seconds, not at the homecoming game, but rather the 2009 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff. With only six weeks to build, wire, and program a 120-pound machine, my team jumped headfirst into brainstorming. Our options included a robot that hoarded the purple and orange Moon Rocks, shot them into enemy goals, or rolled them into air locks . . . with unlimited mechanical and software solutions for each strategy. As captain, I led the brainstorming effort and concentrated on getting everyone’s ideas on the table while also keeping discussion moving forward. We soon narrowed our options down to two strategies: one an elegant ball dumper, the other a superlative shooter.

“Our team has never been more prepared to shoot for the moon.”

“A rotating turret will present a significant technical accomplishment."

“None of the other ‘bots will know what hit them.”

The idea of a shooter inspired my teammates, but I knew a simpler robot could score faster by dumping many balls simultaneously.

That night I struggled to decide if I should aggressively advocate for the more effective strategy. I dialed a few teammates and heard the excitement in their voices when they discussed the shooter. I paced...

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