Rolling Robots

Robolobos Bring Home First Place in Scrimmage

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Photo Courtesy of Piper Hernandez

Members of the Robotics club begin discussing the parts of their robot they built. During the scrimmage, part of the robot did in fact break. “A part of our arm broke off because we were using pretty bad screws,” Jia said. “Luckily, everything still worked and we were able to screw it back on for the day.

Heidi Williams, Reporter

Under pressure, most people tend to fall. Every meeting, the members of the Robolobos encounter stressful situations, such as the hardware malfunctioning. Through these tough times, the team sticks together, comes up with ways to approach the problem, then executes it almost perfectly in such a short amount of time. With all this said and done, they still manage to bring home first place.

President and senior Austin Jia has been with the team since his freshman year. Though he was largely unable to participate in working on and competing with the robot in his sophomore year due to COVID-19, Jia looks forward to  the future of the club and its robots.

“We did well during the scrimmage, and it taught us some important things about our robot to fix for competition,” Jia said. “We ended up undefeated and first in the league.”

Senior Claudia Shen, who is a part of the business wing in the club, focuses on business portfolios which are shown at competitions. She tracked down every little detail that the team does to help the team visualize how far they have come.

“We also track our team’s progress in an engineering notebook where we have daily updates on changes we make to our robot and the purpose behind our edits,” Shen said.

The FTC Robotics team consists of more than 50 players and members, with new people coming to the practices every time they meet. Though the season only consists of only a few competitions, the club is always welcoming anyone to come try it out.

“Our whole team has been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday, with a handful of other members meeting almost every day to adjust and perfect the mobility of our robot,” Shen said. “Our drivers have [also] been practicing together to improve their communication and get ready to perform well in high-intensity matches.”

Leading up to the competition, the team and the robot made a variety of changes. With new players handling the controller that allows them to drive and direct the robot, introducing them to this new skill was challenging at first.

“We’ve made many edits to our robot design, even rebuilding our robot after our first competition,” Shen said. “But for the past two weeks, we have been working long hours on our robot and ensuring we have a functional design. Our drivers this year are fairly new to the game, which may slow down our progress, but our drivers have been practicing and working together to ensure a smooth run on the field during competitions. “

Though the robot ended up breaking during the scrimmage, the Robolobos ended up undefeated and first in the league. The competition was held at Vandegrift High School and consisted of 24 robotics teams.

“A part of our arm broke off because we were using pretty bad screws,” Jia said. “Luckily, everything still worked and we were able to screw it back on for the day. We ended up going through with Loctite on all of our important parts to make sure everything was super secure. Consistency is the most important thing for us.”

Not only did the robot itself fall apart, the inside of it started to malfunction as well. The team pulled together and were able to fix the arm, but while doing so encountered another hard problem.

“We had some technical difficulties with our robot,” Shen said. “[First], our claw wasn’t functioning, and while fixing it, we accidentally lost all the code that programmed the robot. It was quite a rough time, but thankfully we’ve bounced back.”

After that scrimmage, the team discussed changes that needed to be made to the robot and how they’re going to fix the problems that affected the robot during the scrimmage.

“I think in the future, many other teams will work out the problems with their robots so the competition will be very tough,” Jia said. “We just need to focus on driver practice and being comfortable with the game strategy to do well.”

The Robolobos have three upcoming competitions and a tournament at the end of the season. The team  practices after school on Tuesday and Thursday and will continue to advance their club in every way possible leading up to the next competitions.

“To practice, we usually just run through matches alone to get comfortable with the controls and where we need to go to score the most points,” Jia said. “Hopefully, we can get with other schools as well to practice more team-based strategy.”