Cass robotics rookies off to strong start

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thomas Bosler, of the Cassopolis robotics team, playfully head butts teammate Brandyn Polmateer as Molly Moroz watches during Friday’s Niles FIRST Robotics District competition. Vigilant photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Competing in a FIRST robotics competition is as much about teamwork as it is about building and controlling a robot.

Teamwork is just as important in robotics as it would be on a basketball court or a football field, competitors say.

Maybe even more so.

“It can make or break matches,” said Jon Hollister of the Niles High School robotics team.

That’s because each team competing at Friday’s FIRST Robotics District Competition at Niles High School formed an alliance with two other teams. Alliances were pitted against each other to see whose robots could make the most baskets within an allotted time. The competition is called “Rebound Rumble.”

The alliance with the most points won.

Some robots, like the one built by Team 3509 of Niles High School, perform best when playing defense. Others are good at scoring baskets.

Because each robot is different, it becomes key for alliance members to develop a strategy before starting a match.

“It is critical to winning,” said Molly Moroz, of the Cassopolis High School team. “We basically do whatever we need to do. If we have a defensive robot on our team we will play offense, but if we don’t have a defense robot we will do that. We are pretty flexible.”

Even the best plans can go awry. Niles High School found that out in its opening match during Friday’s qualifying round.

Twice during competition, one alliance teammate lost communication with its robot, rendering the robot useless for a period of time. To make matters worse, the shooting mechanism jammed on another teammate’s robot.

Niles had its share of technical problems too. A chain broke on one robot’s wheels and an arm got stuck.

Niles’ alliance wound up losing the match, but teammate Orion Tweedy said it usually takes awhile to work the kinks out. Teams compete several times throughout the day.

“The first couple matches it is basically about who doesn’t break,” Tweedy said. “Mid day is when it really gets heated because everyone is working at full efficiency.”

Cassopolis, a first-year robotics team, had a great opening-round match. Their alliance won 36-0.

“We had a great alliance, we worked really well together,” Moroz said. “We were getting a lot of shots off and didn’t have too many issues.”

Cassopolis is Team 4325. Team numbers show how new or old a team is. Teams with lower numbers have been around longer than teams with higher numbers.

Cassopolis sophomore Thomas Bosler is enjoying his first year on robotics.

“Everyone is so nice and everyone helps each other and the enjoyment that the crowd gives off is just great,” Bosler said.