The GD FIRST Robotics team, known as the Robotomies, is nearing the end of its build season and preparing for its first competition. This year’s events are inspired by Star Wars and themed “Infinite Recharge.” Teams must work to restore the shield generator to protect the planet from an incoming meteor storm. More practically, we need to pick up and throw yellow balls, spin a large disk, and pull ourselves up onto a tilting bar. You didn’t think there were actual meteors, did you?
To be precise, robots, working in teams of three, are tasked with picking up a maximum of five 7” diameter balls at a time and depositing them in either a low goal or a high goal for points. Once enough points have been accrued we are to spin a color wheel between 3 and 5 times and are then assigned a random color to spin the wheel to. Finally, in order to activate the shield generator, anywhere from one to three robots will pull themselves up onto a teetering bar with extra points awarded for leveling the bar before the match time expires.
The team has been working steadily since the Kickoff Event in Manchester on January 4, and has been increasing the frequency of meetings as we near the deadline. Students have been meeting nearly every day over the past few weeks (including during February vacation) finishing up the various components of the robot. Having lost many seasoned members to graduation last year, our team is comprised of mostly freshmen to juniors and is led almost entirely by juniors. Despite less experience to go around, our team has risen to the challenge and is attempting to accomplish all of the goals put before us.
Junior Bryce McKinley is leading the team responsible for picking up and throwing the balls. He’s devised an impressive conveyor belt system that will pull balls into it and raise them up vertically for transportation to the goal. It will then eject the balls into the high goal. Junior Jill Suchecki is leading the climber team, building a clever system that will not only hook onto the bar, but once pulled up will be able to move laterally across the bar to aid in leveling. The system includes a fail safe device to prevent the robot from falling from the bar when the robots are automatically disabled at the end of the match. Software lead and junior Nitsa Kanungo has her job cut out for her as it is her and her team’s responsibility to program the robot to be able to respond to movement commands as well as sensor feedback data.
All leaders have other students working closely with them, helping and contributing their ideas and skills to the success of each team. Additionally, a number of parents of current and former students donate their time helping the students realize their dreams. Most notably, George Shrady and Britt McKinley have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to the success of the program. The team is further supported by generous donations from area businesses and organizations such as IBM, Custom MMIC, Raytheon, the Groton-Dunstable Education Foundation, Real Estate by Raji and the Ted Lapres and Connie Keeran Fund, as well as donations from private donors. None of this would be possible without the generous assistance of all of these people and companies. Events are free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to come and cheer on our team at WPI March 21-22 and at Bedford High School in New Hampshire March 28-29.