Dawson Laboratories has been dedicated to developing the latest in robotics technology. From research and development to manufacturing and marketing, the company has a clear focus on bringing the latest innovations to market. They are known for their quality products, used by many big names in the industry and is in constant demand. Dawson Laboratories is a company you can trust, and their products are sure to improve the quality of life for those who use them.

This goal sticks true since our inception. Dawson Laboratories, once a leader in robotics technology, is now back up and running with the goal of restoring our historic glory, becoming a recognizable and reputable company for robotics technology. A lot of challenges came along the way, and it is best to sum the revival into phases.

Phase 1: Meetup and Recruiting

Dawson Laboratories has revived by veteran competitors of CRC competitions, now overseen by Dawson College’s SPACE initiative under the hands of investor/mentor Joel Trudeau. This revival presented new challenges for the team. Having to start from the beginning was one thing, but the responsibility and management was another level of difficulty. A new dedicated team was needed. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and many inconveniences was to be expected.

Despite these challenges, we find solutions and make compromises. We are limited in machining capabilities and equipment, so with Dawson College’s help, we had a budget to buy new tools on for our purposes. We also used machinery from the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department. Dawson College’s space constraints aside, we only have access to a small makerspace to work in. It is not the greatest solution; only four people can theoretically work on the robot at once in the small, shared room. Regardless, it is still a great first step for future competitions, especially when starting from scratch.

Robot Journey

With that in mind, our first goal under the new ownership is to construct a robot for Arcanum 2022. The goal was not about just winning; it is to secure the college’s commitment for future competitions. We want to show that we are worth investing, not only to foster STEM education, but in other fields such as cinema, industrial design, graphic design, etc. This way, the problems with space constraints and equipment availability would eventually be resolved in the future.

With the help of SPACE, we were glad the meetups were in person. We advertised ourselves to the college looking to hire new recruits. We then had our first briefing about how the CRC competitions works and gave all members an idea about what to expect for 2022’s competition prior to the Kickoff. We should have focused on appealing to people like actors and producers since majority of the recruits were just interested to construct the robot and to program. With that, our team cooperated well and were committed to the competition and the challenges ahead of us.

Phase 2: Brainstorming

The revival of Dawson Laboratories needs great organization and leadership. A robot base along with its wheels was salvaged from the previous management of Dawson Laboratories to be used in the new robot design. After consultations between team members and mentors, everyone had a role and teams were made with a leader.

At this stage, creativity and great imaginations come to play. The theme for the competition is based on the Portal video game series. It is a first-person single-player and cooperative puzzle game, where one must escape a test chamber. A portal gun is used to get to non-accessible platforms in the room and to transport boxes to hold doors open.

Robot Planning     Robot Strategy

The Robot team was split between the different components, each with an assigned leader (more information in Robot). The team altogether created numerous robot concepts that would fit into the base. These conceptualizations have a basis on what the robot would look like and allowed us to brainstorm the mechanisms to complete the tasks, from base to wheels.

The Programming team got to work coding. They had their hands on the CRCduino module and testing the code from CRC Robotics trying out its various functions. Initially, there was some technical issues with the hardware, but regardless, progress was still made with whatever they had working.

The Kiosk team got to work on designing and implementing assets to decorate the Kiosk based on our theme. Assets include a replica of a portal gun, shared between the Kiosk and Video teams. A frame was conceptualized given the dimension constraints, making sure it is structurally sound, given some engineering knowledge. With input from the wood supplier and limitations in material storage, the team settled with a middle ground that was sturdy and used less wood as much as possible for storage purposes.

The Video team originally decided on a live-action style video to showcase the competition and the school. Unfortunately, the video team was hit the hardest from the virus as restrictions forced their filming time to have been cancelled. This led to the video team having to come up with a new idea. Alas, hope was not lost as a new idea was written. This time, the video would be a mostly-3D animated short, beautifully blending the infomercials of Portal 2 with a comedic description of the Arcanum competition. For this video, a lot of visual effects work and editing in Blender and After Effects was needed.

The Website team got to work visualizing the website and creating a base using Gitlab and Visual Studio. The team then got approval to use Dawson’s very own servers to host the robotics department and it was the start of a new chapter for the revived Dawson Laboratories.

Phase 3: Prototyping


December came around and we had exams. Balancing between academics and robotics was very important going into the competition and it was decided that we would pause our robotics journey to focus. To do this would require a lot of pre-planning so we can hopefully get back to working on the robot.

Even with COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, our team kept working in person during the winter break. Not a lot of members chose to work in-person, however we all remained in touch through Discord and things were organized digitally using Notion. With that, we continued where we left off before the exams.

Once the robot design was decided, the team went ahead to prototyping and gathering dimensions. This meant creating detailed diagrams and creating physical replicas of the robot’s components using cardboard. This gave us an idea on how a component would roughly operate without wasting any resources we already had. Also, the base and wheels were disassembled to rearrange its structure and to take measurements. There was some trouble separating the axles from the wheel and stripping threads led to some waste material. Parts were either ordered or sent to have the parts machined in campus at the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department.

Kiosk Sign     Kiosk Sign

The Kiosk team had a lot in their hands. While waiting for materials to arrive, they worked on designing many poster designs that reflect the theme of Portal. They were creative in designing the posters based on life at Dawson College and voiced their opinions.

The Programming team worked on programming the robot’s motors, servos and other electrics. There were issues when working with the code CRC provided and understanding it and the hardware often glitches. Furthermore, the CRCduino became extremely buggy and required repair, with functions not working.

The Video team continue to work hard to finish the video. Plan B was in full force. A lot of Blender and Premiere work was done, but the deadline was approaching. Many things still needed to be done, and while great progress was made, it was hard to perfect the video on time.

The Website team worked on the aesthetic of the website, from generic looking to one themed heavily around portal with the black and white tile transitions. Journal documentation was based on our robot development phases to style our content as corporate.

Prototyping has brought a slew of disagreements along the way. Stuff like stuck screws and sudden changes in design has started a few arguments here and there, especially regarding our budget. Compromises were made, and to further avoid additional disagreements, we have settled to stick with simplicity and tried and true ideas.

Phase 4: Construction

The college semester has started, and academics came back to haunt our team’s time. Luckily, most of our schedules allowed us to meetup on Fridays and work on constructing the robot. Online communication became crucial as it was during the winter break, since not all of us can make it in a single meetup. In general, the organization and planning of the construction phase were laid out with great clarity and maximized whatever time we have available.

For the Robot team, they got to work assembling the robot’s mechanisms and then putting them together. Those able to access the machinery from mechanical engineering technology worked on parts making. Parts are then added to the robot in the makerspace, often needing retrofitting. Another concern being able to only work in the makerspace was that making noise was inevitable. During the time we would be working, there will be classes teaching nearby, even on weekends.

While waiting for materials, the Kiosk team continued designing posters, purchasing materials and coordinating with suppliers for the wood.

The programming team worked with the Robot’s electrics team to connect the electronics and test the code on the robot. The team learned to be more careful in handling electronics. There were many times where components were connected incorrectly and were fried. Otherwise, wheels were spinning and elevators were moving for the first time.

Robot Construction

Halfway through the construction process, we were informed that the competition date was postponed as well as the website and video submission due dates. The Video team was relieved, as changing plans halfway to the deadline was going to be a scheduling challenge, especially with the semester starting. Great progress was made, but a lot of time had to be devoted to getting it done on time.

The postponed submission date was also a relief for the website. At this point, the content was done but unrefined. Having the extra time allowed for further refinements and tweaks to the website aesthetic and to rewrite some content.

Phase 5: Presentation

Team Picture 1     Team Picture 2     Team Picture 3

As of March 28th, 2022, the robot is still being calibrated and perfected to ensure its reliability. The Kiosk has yet to start test assembling the kiosk and the programming team continues to work on the electronics and the code for the robot. At this rate, the robot will be ready for the competition, with fingers crossed hoping the robot survives and performs as promised.

Meanwhile, the video and website teams are ready to share their respective projects and present the robot and the competition.