Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grant Imahara VEXPlorer Robot Challenge Winners! by Tom Atwood

Grant Imahara, chief judge in this challenge, is one of the hosts of Discovery Channel’s hit show “Mythbusters.” He is a special- effects expert who has worked on and operated some of the most famous robots in history, including R2-D2 and the Energizer Bunny. Grant is the author of “Kickin ’Bot,” a book that explains how to build a combat robot.
The First Place winner, CHEMBOT.

In our last issue, we announced the Grant Imahara VEXplorer Robot Challenge, sponsored by Revell, Innovation First, Inc. (IFI), Solidworks Corporation and Robot magazine. The contest, which was broadly announced on robotics news websites, gave 25 robot enthusiasts a chance to compete for a $5,000 scholarship grand prize and a $2,000 second-place prize. Ten more contestants were given a chance to win $200 gift certificates redeemable at Many dozens applied, and we selected 25 to build their robots.

The Second Place winner, Walking Quadruped Dinosaur.
The contest entailed using the VEXplorer kit and any additional robotics parts (up to a limit of $100) from to create a unique and original application, which then had to be posted as a video on YouTube by June 1. These limitations set a level playing field (minor additions such as masking tape, glue, string, paper towels, etc,. to complete the application were deemed to be within the scope of the rules). Contestants were given additional points for the use of SolidWorks software and for good videography. “Mythbuster” Grant Imahara picked the winners.

We are pleased to announce the overall winner: Gustavo Goretkin’s ChemBot took first place. Gustavo, congratulations on winning the $5,000 scholarship prize! In second place were Jared Schwartz and Tom Lundberg with their Walking Quadruped Dinosaur. Although the second prize was initially set at $2,000, Grant and the contest sponsors were so impressed by Tom and Jared’s robot that they awarded each a $2,000 scholarship.

We thank all who applied and all 25 contestants for the tremendous effort and fantastic creativity shown in their entries. See them all at Contestants who did not make the winner’s list will be given a free one-year subscription to Robot in appreciation of their entries. Original applicants who did not make the contestant cut and those who are not listed as winners, will be sent complimentary copies of the SolidWorks Student Edition.


Gustavo Goretkin, a student of the Broward Virtual School, has participated in the FIRST robotics program of Dillard High School for the past three years. He has also mentored a FIRST Lego League team at Hallandale Elementary for two years. His interests lie in computer intelligence, robotics engineering and in technology, generally. Chembot can be viewed at

Gustavo notes “Chembot is remotely operated and designed to conduct experiments from a safe distance from the experimenter. The onboard camera allows the robot to relay images of the materials it is manipulating and allows the researcher to observe the experiment. The robot’s arm assembly is mounted on a Cartesian coordinate system. The base moves in a single axis (both sides of the drivetrain are linked by an axle), and a linear slider system is mounted perpendicularly to the base’s axis. The shoulder, which is mounted on the sliding base, supports the rest of the components.

“A wrist was added; it provides the gripper with two additional degrees of freedom. The tilting angle of the wrist allows the gripper to always remain parallel to the horizontal plane so that materials are not spilled while moving from one vertical position to another. The rotational degree of freedom rotates about the grabbing axis, and it allows the robot to pour materials from a container.”

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