Daniel Carrillo is a 17-year-old junior at Pueblo Magnet High School and the president of the school's Robotics Asylum club. Their team won the VEX Robotics regional championship and is taking their remote-controlled robots to Dallas to compete against more than 280 teams from 12 countries in the second annual VEX Robotics World Championship competition, starting on Thursday, April 30. Their robots, Flavor of the Month and K-9, are small, but thanks to their speed and maneuverability, they're aiming to take the win.
What is a VEX Robot?
A VEX kit is basically a bunch of parts that we use to build a robot that will do whatever tasks we want it to do. ... For this competition, we have to be able to grab cubes and put them in goals of different heights, and that's what we've designed our robots to do.
How long have you been building them?
We've had our kits since December, and our first competition was in January, so we had a very short time at first to build it and get it done. We basically had a window of two weeks. ... We came out of (the regional) competition and were looking toward (the world championship), and we didn't destroy our designs at all; we just improved them. With mine, I kept the same concept, but every little flaw that happened or we came upon, I improved it. I built something to make (the arm) stronger. ... We got new aluminum parts for it, so it will be lighter ... to make it more efficient.
How do you play "elevation"?
That's the competition we're going to play (at the world championship). We start off as two alliances—a red team and a blue team, two robots on each side—and there are cubes set up at different parts of the arena that's 12 feet by 12 feet, I think. A bell sounds, and our robots will go autonomously, which means we program them to go on their own for about 20 to 30 seconds, and after that, we pick up the controller and start controlling them and try to score as many points as we can.
What is yours going to do while autonomous, or is that a trade secret?
We had to kinda set up ... uh, yeah, that's a trade secret.
How did the regional competition go?
The first one, for me, it went really good. We had small problems: Our teacher didn't register; we could only register one robot, and we took four. They let us all compete, but in the beginning, we had to decide which robot would be competing to go to the finals. ... Some robots did better than others. I'm not boasting or bragging, but mine was the best choice. We didn't choose it, unfortunately, but mine was in the no. 1 spot the entire time. Luckily, we were able to get enough out of the robot we did register, and it got to the final, and it won.
Are you worried about your robot becoming self-aware and taking over the world?
With ours, I'm not too afraid of that, because they don't have any artificial intelligence; it's us telling it what to do. It goes on what we tell it.
What do you think about human-robot marriage?
Um, Futurama? I don't think it will come around, but who knows?
What tricks do you have planned for the world competition? What do you have up your sleeve?
... We'll do what we did before, but even better. With our new design, we're definitely more fast, more strong, more everything. Since we have past experience, we'll just improve and do better. We know what's coming.
Are you going to keep this up next year as a senior?
Yeah. This is our first year doing this. I was in an electronics class last year, and that's what led me on to this. So it's definitely something I'm ... pursuing; it's something I like doing.
What have you learned from building VEX Robots?
This whole designing of our own robots, it's given me a sense of what I want to do. I want to become a mechanical engineer. ... And this definitely feels like it's a start into it, getting me the right skills.
Think you're going to win?
I could sound cocky and say, "Yes, I know I'm going to win," but I'm curious to see what other designs there are, and what other countries thought of. Right now, I know I have a good, strong design, and hopefully, I'll do really good.