You could say Overdrive is FIRST’s nod to NASCAR- robots raced around a track, moving trackballs onto, off of, and over an “overpass ” at the center of the field. Teams competed on alliances of three teams each stationed at opposite ends of a 27′ by 54′ field. A 6 and a half foot tall overpass spans the width of the field, with a 6 foot tall lane divider running through the center line, defining the start and finish points of the track. When the match begins, four trackballs are placed on the overpass in random order (two red, two blue). The object of the game is for robots to do laps of the track with (or without) a trackball to earn points during a 15-second autonomous period and a 2-minute tele-operated period. Points are earned every time the trackball crosses your alliance’s finish line, more points are earned if the ball passes over the overpass than under it. Bonus points are awarded if your alliance’s trackballs are returned to the overpass at the end of the match. The exact scoring system is best explained by Mr. Lavery’s video above.

Our Robot: Lola

Lola the Pink Unicorn was our team’s first FIRST robot. Lola used a fork-lift type design, moved by a steel cable threaded through it that would around a cylinder mounted in the center of the robot. The “arms” that grabbed the ball on the lift were made out of aluminum tubes that were bent to match the curvature of the trackballs, and opened and closed with window motors. This year, all the programming was done in C. When it came time to name our 2008 robot, there were some disagreements about the gender our mythical monstrosity. Eventually, one of the team members suggested the name Lola, taken from the infamous Kinks song of the same name, as a way of addressing the gender ambiguity. The name caught on with time and was eventually compounded with its informal nickname of ‘the pink unicorn.’ Lola taught us a lot of lessons – about running a team, and about using Bosch rail on the final robot.