The crowd is silent as the announcer counts down the start of the round. Drivers hold their breath as they watch the 30 second autonomous mode tick by. Then the driver controlled mode is switched on and drivers have full control of their creation that they’ve all worked so hard to build. Robots move around the playing field just as they’d practiced back at their school. Then the 30 second Endgame is announced and teams push their robots to the breaking point to score as many last minute points as possible.
After great success at their last three meets, the four students on the North Scott Robotics team are gearing up for the Regional meet on Saturday, February 6th. All of the teams from surrounding schools have gotten their act together and are now serious competitors. Designs have all been refined and now work as expected. Even the officials of the First Tech Challenge (FTC) have streamlined the day so it flows without hiccups.
In a standard FTC round, there are two alliances (red and blue) with two teams each. There can only be two drivers and one coach per team up at the field. The drivers hold controllers that are plugged into an Android smartphone that is connected to the robot wirelessly via wifi. Another smartphone that is attached to the robot (in a custom 3d printed bracket) runs the code that controls the movement.
The Lancers are on their third revision of their robot--this time adding more features to their robot in order to score a far greater amount of points. Their latest design incorporates the use of tape measures to pull their robot up the ramp and hang on a bar, which is over four feet high. With FTC regulations stating that the robot has to fit within an 18 inch cube, it’s a good challenge and worth many points. The Lancers have been trying to perform this difficult task since the beginning of the year.
Using a Java based program called Android Studio, Corbyn Heppe has created all of the code to run the robot. The code is then inputted to the phone connected to the robot. The smartphones that control the robot are much more reliable than the older system that used aging technology that had been replaced years ago. Before this year, the team had a difficult time testing the robots wirelessly
Long after the students have left the building and the hallways are dark and barren, a light in the robotics room still shines. Through the small window next to the door. Members often stay late into the night, and sometimes are the last ones to leave the building. Hunter Brooks, Cameron Mess, Parker Birtell, and Corbyn Heppe have put in countless hours to get the robot to where it is today. Late night janitors are friendly to the team, never intruding on their room.
Cameron Mess has also been working on a ramp similar to the one used at the competition. He is constructing it out of two by fours and metal rods. This will help the North Scott team practice their climbing and to score more points. Teams are able to purchase the real ramp from the FTC, but since robotics isn’t considered a sport, they don't have funding from the school to back the expensive. Luckily there are plenty of dimensions online and DIY tutorials.
Stay tuned to The Lance for the results from the weekend's competition and pictures. Rounds start at 10 and will go till 6:30. Everyone is invited to come and watch the action!