Racing the Clock By– Scott Costello

     Robotics competitions come in many shapes and sizes, from dangerous, passive, automated, etc. At SIUC first time members joining SIUC Robotics have the opportunity to join a team that doesn’t compete in competitions, rather they build their knowledge of robotics through trial and error. Usually a date for Mary-O-Kart isn’t set. This year was different, Mary-O-Kart is over after this year. What better time to make our projected finish other than Engineering Day. For Robotics, this Engineering Day was huge because we had been working on the Mary-O-Kart all year with the intention of unveiling. To make Engineering Day more special, we had tours of our workshops and several robot demonstrations. I’ve been with Mary-O-Kart since the beginning and have seen many events unfold. My favorite memory, however, would be the excitement of watching our parts box turn into functioning Mary-O-Karts.
     The Mary-O-Kart project started at SIUC Robotics six years ago, yet no teams since had been able to make a truly successful working Mary-O-Kart. I believe other teams never finished the project because there are no competitions for these karts, which left us without a concrete deadline and strong motivation. This year, however, our team lead by Robert Lozar-McDonald was told by the president, Lincoln Kinley, that this would be the last year for the Mary-O-Kart project, and our deadline was Engineering Day. In just over a semester we had designed an entire baseplate for our components to sit on, found appropriate motors, learned coding and wiring, created a top shell, and an LED track for light sensors on the kart.
     Despite all our efforts towards perfection, there were errors along the way. Issues occurred in almost every phase of creation. Our biggest issue occurred unfortunately on our due date. As students eagerly waited to get onto campus, while setting up our karts, they all had some wiring problems, despite using them the night before. This was a huge thorn in our sides, we quickly figured out our problem and made adjustments to account for it. Unfortunately, due to this issue in the wiring, it meant that the first two groups only got to “see” what we created. They couldn’t interact with it as we were hoping. Soon after our wiring incident, we were able to find our bearings on two of the karts and the high schoolers were very excited to finally interact with the karts. I think that it’s amazing that our group of seven people could learn so much in such a short amount of time. I know this was a learning experience because people were constantly taking time out of their own busy schedules to stop and help one another. One thing that terrified me from the start though was that we had too many outspoken leaders. It turns out, we did. Group members always had something to say to one another, whether it was good or bad. This was such a critical problem that it’d have almost been impossible to finish Mary-O-Kart without addressing it. As a group, we came to a consensus that no more one-way ideas could continue. We came to the conclusion that new ideas had to be ran past the pairs of teams that were running into the issues, and our team lead so that we could all stay in contact. Leadership played an immense role in our project, because through the help of others, and willingness to learn by us all, this year we were able to get Mary-O-Kart off the ground. When we got to the final date for our project we were jumping up and down because we were able to get our karts and a track finished in time for us to show off not just to Robotics club, but the students that were coming to SIUC as well.
     Our team was ecstatic on our due date. It was our day to shine and show prospective students the amazing things that we could do. Our karts may have run into issues at points, but through these issues we grew stronger as a  team. We came to notice one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and we built upon that. The individuals on the Mary-O-Kart team succeeded not only in creating these karts, but also taking the initiative, responsibility, and creating an enjoyable atmosphere for all.
Winner of Mary-O-Kart– WALUIGI