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Robotics and programming: What happened at Robogames


Building a two-wheeled robot that needed to balance, run six meters and stand upright by itself? This was the challenge that Thamires de Pontes, Java Backend Developer at ília, and her team had at Robogames, the world’s largest robotics competition, held in early April in California, USA.

Thamires participated in the competition with ília’s support and returned home with the third place medal. “Being part of a company that encourages women to seek their place in technology is priceless. I really appreciate the support that the ília gave me to go to this competition. It was very important to be in such a challenging event, due to the high complexity of robotics and the teams from all over the world”, she said about the event that lasted three days, gathered people from all over the world and had more than 50 competitive categories.

Before landing in California, there were four months of preparation: Thamires and her two teammates divided themselves onto the mechanical, electronic, and programming fronts – the latter under the responsibility of our Java Backend Developer.

“It was necessary to have a lot of control and patience, since the robot had to be ready to start the tests. It was hard work and full of challenges, but it yielded a lot of project experience in this area. Elaborating varied plans and experiments in the codes requires a lot of study and perseverance”, she reported.

Named Ada, the robot gave the trio a scare on the first day of the event. “It wouldn’t stand up and it took us a whole day to find out the reason that prevented this action by testing and coding. Until we found out that the problem was in the runtime, we were apprehensive because it was a very difficult issue to solve,” she said.

The solution was to go ahead with the project in a different way than planned. “Ada was the only autonomous robot (without the need for a remote control) of her discipline in the competition. Therefore, we decided to use a strategy of turning drives off and on during the match, this would make it resume its configuration prior to the problem affecting it, which was the weather” she described.

At the time of the competition, Thamires realized she had done a great job of controlling Ada’s engine constants, as she went through all the obstacles, ramps, bumps, and mats, without falling off.

“For only one second we didn’t take the second place prize in our category, which for us, is not a problem, because the experience of participating in such an important competition, and still coming in third place, was magical,” said Thamires.

The lessons learned

Thamires celebrates the award won and lists the lessons learned from the experience:

“Personally, I learned a lot about resilience in practice. If a plan is not working, or if the strategy used doesn’t take us to the final goal, it is necessary to think about a plan B and take action as soon as possible, respecting the limitations of each one. There’s no point in despairing, we have to focus on the result.

I acquired an enriching knowledge about programming logic, I learned about a different language than the one I am an expert in and this allowed me to bypass problematic situations and solve bugs in several moments.

I understood that it is of utmost importance to deepen my knowledge of programming logic. With concrete and well-founded knowledge in this area, it is possible to conduct a project in any language. This is a gold mine for a programmer.

It was also important to make contact with other people in the same area, expand networking, and strengthen the desire to participate in more technology projects.”

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