Robotics teams rising to variety of challenges

By: Zuhayr Alam

The robotics team 525 has been gearing up for the start of a new season since the summer, and on Jan. 9, the team members were clued in on what they will be building for the next few weeks.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) released the game for this season, Stronghold, on YouTube and with a live stream. The game consists of two teams of three robots each attempting to breach enemy defenses, usually through obstacles or steps of some sort, to get to a row of “boulders” on the opposing side of the field of play. Once the robots have reached the boulders, they will attempt to launch the boulders into windows of a tower to score points.

Adviser Kenton Swartley said the Swartdogs are excited by this new game. “I thought it was really neat. There are new challenges and different things, but there are still some similarities with previous games,” Swartley said. “In a game a few years ago, we had to shoot basketballs into hoops, and there is a really similar aspect in this game.”

Senior Sam Ponnada agreed with Swartley. “I thought it was really interesting because it has a lot of different aspects to it compared to games we’ve built robots for in the past,” Ponnada said. “It is more complex than previous games.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 8.57.15 AMThe Swartdogs have met much success in past seasons.

Swartley said the goals are the same as always. “We always want to help students learn STEM skills and to work as a team to build something, much like they might have to do in future jobs,” Swartley said. “Obviously we want to meet the same success at regionals and competitions, but we want more than that. We want to shift the attention from our team and robots onto STEM throughout the community.”

Ponnada said he is happy with his final game. “I think this is a good game to end a high school robotics career on. It’s challenging in both the engineering aspect and the tactical aspect,” he said. “I want to leave on a good note, so I hope we do well. I hope the underclassmen step up when we leave after this season.”

In addition to team 525, which participates in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the school district has another robotics team, the Sabre-Hoof Tigers team 6420 that participates in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). FTC is available for grades 7-12, while FRC is only available at the high school level.

Their game this season is called Res-Q, and it is modeled after mountain rescue situations. Robots can score points by resetting beacons, delivering packages to a shelter while parking them on a steep incline such as a mountain and then finally parking on the floor goal.

Mentor Meghan Reynolds said this game is a bit more challenging than the games have been in years past.

“This year’s game is especially tricky because there are fewer ways to score points, and climbing the mountain is a huge challenge. It’s steep, made of slippery plastic and has metal bars laid across that the robot has to climb over,” Reynolds said. “On top of the game challenges, we’ve also completely changed the robot programming language, which has presented a number of complications.”

Senior Captain Keaton Elliot said he relishes the challenge.

“I really like this year’s game,” Elliot said. “It has a wide variety of obstacles that allows team to not need a hugely complex robot and still be able to compete and have fun.”

Check out these other recent robotics stories:
Robotics team captures Cowtown Classic
Robotics team returns from trip to China

Link to Team 525 website

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