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18.2 Types of Contests
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It is often important to hold contests with a wide range of dif culty levels. Challenges can be straightforward, such as avoiding obstacles or drop offs, or more complex such as lineor contour-following. If there are advanced participants you may consider more sophisticated contests such as locating hidden objects, solving mazes, or navigating from point-to-point around a cluttered environment. Variations on a theme can make a previously assigned contest a whole new challenge. Consider line-following as an example. If the robot is only allowed to use one line sensor instead of three, the contest will have a totally new avor. Another variation would be to make the line very wide, like a road, and require that the robot stay on the line simulating a car. Further variety may be achieved by varying the width of the line along the track, requiring the robot to change the algorithm it uses for staying on route. You could also make the line intermittent (made up of dots and dashes) forcing the robot to have to reacquire the line as it moves along the path. The number of variations is limited only by the imagination. The goal is to induce the participants to innovate and be enjoyably challenged. The level of dif culty of a contest should be geared to the range of abilities of the expected participants. Contests within the RobotBASIC environment can be as diverse in dif culty and variety as any real physical robotic contest, and the experiences gained in meeting the challenges assigned in a simulated robotic contest are applicable on numerous levels to nonvirtual contests.
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CONTESTS WITH ROBOTBASIC
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18.3 Scoring a Contest
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Determining the criteria for winning a contest is a crucial part of the planning process. Using the line-following example again, the winner could be the robot that completes the task in the least amount of time or maybe the one that exits the line the least number of times before completing the course. The winner could also be the robot that performs the task with the most ef ciency. RobotBASIC provides a variety of methods for comparing the performance of participating robots. 18.3.1 SCORING WITH THE POINTS SYSTEM RobotBASIC has an internal point system that can provide a way to score a contest. Each time the robot moves forward or turns, an internal counter is incremented by two points and each time the robot interrogates any sensors the counter is incremented by one point (see Sec. C.9 for more information). The winner of a contest could be the robot that accomplishes the task using the least amount of points. The ef ciency of an algorithm is dependent upon a variety of design considerations. Choosing the type and combination of sensors can be just as important as the frequency and method of interrogating these sensors. Also the number of times the robot makes the wheels turn and stop can be an indication of the effectiveness of the robot. In general, it is better to analyze sensory data using mathematics and logic in order to minimize super uous movements since movement generates more points than reading the sensors. Algorithms can be made more powerful and more ef cient with movement and sensory acquisitions in many ways. Proper planning with mathematics and logic can minimize the trial and error approach to tackling challenges. This is a really important concept when the robot is used as a teaching tool (see Chap. 19) because it helps students see real-life relevance and application for many of the topics they study. Another way of decreasing the points used by an algorithm is to utilize more ef cient code. Example 1 in Fig. 18.1 uses rFeel() to avoid a collision. If the value of the sensors happens to be two then the sensors will be read three times. Example 2 makes the robot do exactly the same thing, but much more ef ciently. The value of the sensors is read only once and is stored in a variable. The value of that variable is used in the if-statements to make the required decisions, thus avoiding reading the sensors more than one time.
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