Even Robots Need a Good Plan
Who remembers BattleBots? It was a short-lived, nerdtastic game show on Comedy Central in which remote controlled robots were pitted against each another, Gladiator style, and forced to fight to the bitter, sparky end. Even though the show’s television glory days have long since passed, battle bots continue to be built and motorized prizefights continue to be waged.
Turns out that many universities sponsor clubs that are building a new generation of fighting robots as a means to help students put their engineering chops to work (and of course, enjoy the spectacle of robot-on-robot combat). One such club can be found at the University of Illinois. Their iRobotics club is comprised of nearly 60 students who compete on one of several teams and come from a range of departments and backgrounds. Recently the group decided it was time to upgrade the way they manage the development cycle of their own battle bot program and decided to give LiquidPlanner a spin.
Leading the charge for the “Combots” team is Ryan Shulski, a mechanical engineering major who is spearheading the team’s effort to design and build a combat-bot from scratch. The iRobotics club has been building bots for many years but up until this point, they haven’t used anything besides the most rudimentary tools to manage this very complex process. Says Shulski, “the irony is not lost on us that we are spending many months working to create an advanced piece of technology yet relying on very primitive tools to get the job done.”
We were looking for a system that would help create accountability and improve visibility so everyone on the team would be aware of what others were working on.
RYAN SHULSKI, IROBOTICS TEAM
Robots need to track and delegate tasks, too
Working with such a large group of individual team members who are rotating in and out of the project presents a number of obvious challenges. At the most basic level, the iRobotics team is looking to LiquidPlanner to help them track and delegate tasks. “When it comes to manufacturing a robot like this, a great number of the tasks in the project are fully contingent on others tasks being completed. For instance, we might need a part welded before we can begin the assembly process and need a better way to track these types of tasks. We also were looking for a system that would help create accountability and improve visibility so everyone on the team would be aware of what others were working on,” Shulski continued.
Using LiquidPlanner as a knowledge-based learning tool
Beyond the benefits of using LiquidPlanner as a planning solution, the team is also hoping to use the project plan itself as a knowledge base to help future teams get a better sense of how long it will take to complete certain tasks and improve the overall planning process.
The iRobotics team at the University of Illinois is now the second Big Ten school to use LiquidPlanner as their project planning solution of choice. In September, we chronicled how Purdue University uses LiquidPlanner to design and build a long-range solar powered vehicle. While the projects themselves are quite different, both universities have one thing in common: They’re taking advantage of LiquidPlanner’s “Commitment to Education” program which provides free licenses to qualified educational organizations.