Rookie robotics team finishes in top half at St. Joseph event
Published 8:41 am Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The biggest lesson members of the Buchanan robotics team learned at their first competition this past weekend is that they have a lot to learn.
“You really don’t know what you are getting into until you get into it,” said team coach Phillip Place. “There is a definite learning curve, but you learn very fast. We anticipated there would be a lot we didn’t know.”
Buchanan, which started its robotics team this school year, finished 17th out of 39 teams after the qualifying rounds at the St. Joseph district event, held Friday and Saturday at St. Joseph High School.
“That is incredible for a rookie team with so many experienced and very well-funded teams to go against,” Place said.
In preparation for the St. Joseph district, Buchanan robotics team members travelled to Grand Valley State University to watch a competition there.
“We wanted our first competition experience to be where we could sit there and watch and take it all in, while beginning to understand the flow of things,” Place said.
“The first thing we noticed is we needed a lot more stuff than we had.”
The “stuff” Place was referring to included additional batteries and equipment for the robot, in case it breaks down. Place also said they didn’t fully understand some of the procedural and safety elements of the competition.
“When we got to St. Joe we learned those things very quickly,” he said. “You can’t have too many back-up parts or extras or too many tools. It’s very possible you might need all of them or none of them.”
The other thing the team learned was that a good night’s rest is key.
“You are going constantly until you are not. There’s not a lot of time for breaks,” he said. “When you do finally get that break you crash pretty hard.”
For this year’s event, the teams and their machines went head-to-head in a game known as “Aerial Assist.” The teams were divided into two alliances, each comprised of three robots.
The objective was to score as many points as possible in a timed match by having robots launch a ball into the opposing team’s goal, suspended in the air. Teams could earn additional points by assisting another teammate’s goal by passing the ball.
Place said Buchanan’s robot was designed to pass balls to alliance members.
“A human player would bring the ball to the edge of the field and pass it to our robot. Our robot would then pass it to our alliance member’s robot,” he said. “Being able to do that made us incredible valuable.”
Buchanan will compete Thursday in a district event at Mason High School in Mason, near Lansing.