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Robotics team prepares for competition season

This+year%27s+robot+rests+on+a+table+with+spare+parts.
This year's robot rests on a table with spare parts.

This year's robot rests on a table with spare parts.

Photo by Alexandra Canizales

Photo by Alexandra Canizales

This year's robot rests on a table with spare parts.

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As FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) released this year’s contest theme, ROVER RUCKUS, the robotics team prepares to create a robot for its first competition on Saturday, Nov. 17. Robotics tournaments are not about building the strongest, toughest robot, but rather about building the most durable robot. During the competition, the robot will go through obstacles and have to complete certain tasks. The structure of the robot prioritizes dependability and efficiency.

“The robot is always in construction,” robotics adviser Mark Jones said. “We’re always improving it for every match. [The team] looks at what we did well and we make adjustments; sometimes we rebuild the entire robot, and sometimes we just make minor changes. As the year goes through, you make less and less major changes – just tweaks to make it reliable. Reliability is really important. [The robot] may not be able to do every aspect of the game but it must be reliable because if it breaks down on you, you get no points.”

After creating the first draft of the robot, the team goes into competition and runs the robot through the course. Although the matches have already begun, the robot is never finished and the team must continue improving the robot.

“I think of [competitions] as a stepping stone in the creation of our robot,” junior Adam Holcomb said.

Staying long hours after school enhancing the robot, the team hopes the extensive time working on it pays off at competitions. The team anticipates every tournament to be better than the last after making certain modifications.

“[At the start of the competitions], we’re all there, [feeling] tired but excited and hopeful,” senior robotics president Connor Mihelic said. “As the day progresses, [our] moods change [as we see] the scores go up and down, getting closer to first place or farther down.”

With teams from various schools grouping together to create what is called an alliance during the second phase of the tournament, there’s a high amount of trust in each other. The main goal of a match is to accumulate as many points as possible so the team is able to advance to the next round of competition. The cycle continues at each competition, each time hoping to progress to the State UIL level.

“When alliance happens, it’s probably the most stressful moment because it’s the one chance to get to the next stage of the competition or essentially give up for the season,” Mihelic said. “A lot of the competition isn’t based on when you’re actually on the field, it’s based on your team performance and your opponents’ performance. You may get into a match and your robot [does] well, but if your teammate does bad and your opponents are two good robots, you’re going to lose. It’s all a game of chance.”

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