Robotics teams shape tomorrow

This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 7, 2018).

The robotics teams practiced driving their robots for hours to prepare for the competition on Nov. 10. This time, it was longer hours and more adjustments. This time, it would be different–this time, they would win.

After a close competition that resulted in a loss for the teams last year, the robotics teams were determined to win this year’s first competition.

“Last year, we were three points away from going to state,” said junior Lindsey Simpson, a member of the FTC, or First Tech Challenge, robotics league. “We were really close, but we were paired against two very strong teams.”

Oviedo has two different robotics teams, which compete against other schools and with each other in randomized competition rounds.

“This season, we separated teams based on strategy,” said junior Jennifer Hague. “One team wanted our robot to be able to climb and hang in the air, and my team wanted to be able to collect and move objects.”

Even with the additional preparation, not everything went according to plan on Nov. 10.

“Our collector malfunctioned, so by next competition, we need to make sure it’s working well,” Hague said, referring to a part of the robot used to collect objects.

Because the way the competing teams are chosen is completely randomized, the Oviedo teams decided to prepare to face off against even the most challenging opponents.

“It was a huge thing that we didn’t do in the past,” Simpson said.

A segment of the competition where robots were programmed to lift cubes and spheres for points proved to be especially difficult for the teams.

“The rules state that you can only maintain control of two objects on the field,” said senior Gideon Anderson. “If you accidentally bump a sphere and it keeps rolling, the entirety of its rolling counts as you ‘controlling’ it.”

Anderson’s team ended up taking second place in the first competition.

“To prepare for the next competition, we’ll not only have to push objects around, we plan to be able to pick them up and put them in high-scoring areas,” Anderson said.

Constructing for success

“In FTC, we work with 18’x18’ metal,” Simpson said.

The robotics team gets their materials from a company called Vex Robotics, and has access to a 3D printer in the classroom, which they use to make pieces to connect materials from different brands.

The robotics teams  keep an engineering notebook, which logs their robotic designs and regular meetings. This notebook is one of the many components that is judged in determining the winning team in the final competition.

Beyond robots

Besides an overall award for performance, teams can earn recognition in different subcategories.

“There’s one called the Inspirer Award, where if you win that, you get to go to the next competition, even if you didn’t win in the first competition,” Simpson said. “Then there’s Outreach, which is for volunteering by getting kids involved with STEM and how many hours you have. There’s Gracious Professionalism, which is a good sportsmanship award.”