Two robotics teams power up for engineering showdowns

FTC Team 6420By: Zuhayr Alam

The Swartdogs continued their long spell of success at regional competitions last weekend. The robotics team traveled to Duluth on Thursday, Feb. 26, to compete with 60 other teams and came home on Sunday after being on the winning alliance and earning the Imagery Award, which is given for having a prominent appearance.

Each year, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) creates a new game, and thousands of robotics teams create a robot to play the game. In the past, games have pitted Frisbee-throwing robots against each other, basketball-playing robots against each other and soccer-playing robots against each other.

This year, the game is called “Recycle Rush.” It is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each. Teams score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms and capping those totes with recycling bins. Robots then try to put pool noodles, representing litter, inside of the recycling bins.

The Swartdogs, or Team 525, made two robots this year in order for one robot to be used to practice with and make modifications, and one robot to be used in competitions. They are named Odis and Schumacher, respectively.

Junior Sam Ponnada explained the names. “Our robot names this year revolve around an elevator idea,” Ponnada said. “We thought it would be cool to name the robots after local elevator companies, and, in fact, Schumacher is a mere 20 miles from our build site.”

Up next for the Swartdogs is a regional competition in Minneapolis, similar to the one in Duluth. It will be held in early April. A few weeks after that, team 525 will be travelling down to St. Louis to compete in the world championship. The Swartdogs qualified for the world championship by winning the Duluth Regional.

Ponnada said the team will be practicing more before the two competitions.

“We will be using our time now to prepare for both events by practicing and making any spare parts we may need in the future.”

Physics teacher Kenton Swartley looks forward to the world championship.

“Our goal is to have a good competition and that we are functioning to the best of our ability,” Swartley said. “We want to make it to the playoffs and to be seeded high enough to be in alliances.”

Cedar Falls High School has another robotics team as well. FTC, or FIRST Tech Challenge, has a longer preparation time for competitions, and smaller teams. After winning a design award in their previous competition in February, the team of six looks forward to its next competition, which is this weekend.

Science teacher Meghan Reynolds is a mentor on the team. “I’m excited to see how the team does and also what competition will look like,” Reynolds said. “This is my first championship, so I’m not sure what to expect. The team definitely built a good robot, and it’ll be a great experience no matter what.”

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