Robopocalypse Reaches New Heights

Sahil Shah, Sci-Tech Editor

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The Wilcox Robotics Team (Team 8872 Robopocalypse), which competes in the First Tech Challenge, has surpassed goals that they had set last year by qualifying for super regionals in Spokane, Washington. Super Regionals is the nationals equivalent of other school sports. The team worked hard through the qualifying matches and all the way through the regionals tournament held at Newark Memorial High School, staying until almost eight in the evening every day. The First Tech Challenge (FTC) is a competition in which high schools across the nation use STEM fundamentals to create a robot that can compete successfully in a challenge designed by the FTC creators. Every year’s challenge is different, however, the twelve foot by twelve-foot playing field remains the same. The robot also has specifications that cannot be exceeded to make the challenge even more difficult. These include the entire bot not being larger than an eighteen-inch cube and contains no hydraulics and only one battery. Teams from different schools all over the country work together and create a journal that describes the process of how and why they did what they did. Most teams split up into different groups based on interest. Generally, there is a portion of the team that focuses on the mechanical aspect, one on the programing of the bot, and one that does business and the journal. The business and journal component is expected to get and manage the team’s funds and documenting everything that goes on. The mechanical team works on the CAD and actually building the bot and the programming group programs and tests the autonomous portion of the robot.
This year’s challenge required teams to design a bot that could balance on a board, stack blocks in the designated areas and “recover” a relic that is in the corner of the field, and place it up to three feet outside of the field on a mat. The challenge, Relic Recovery, is designed to utilize students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Each round consists of a thirty-second autonomous period followed by a two-minute driver-controlled period, including the end game. The auto period rewards extra points to teams that can complete the functions, such as knocking off the “jewel” (a red or blue colored waffle ball) that does not correlate to their alliance color for that round, all without any user input. During the driver controlled period, the team drivers are expected to stack the brown and grey blocks in specific patterns, dictated by a picture, similar to the way a barcode functions. During the endgame, drivers can pick up the relic, a yellow plastic figurine and drop it off in one of the three zones, the farther out, the more points- bonus if it is still standing. The field has one foot high walls making this aspect of the game difficult, as teams have to devise a system that can extend out far enough to place the relic within one of the three zones.
Team 8872 Robopocalypse has been functioning for the past four years and assisted in the creation of a sister team, Team 13190 Roblivion. Though it has been hard, as both teams now had to share their parts and the tiny portable by the track they have managed to do reasonably well. Roblivion competed in its first tournament in January while the senior team, 8872, competed in multiple tournaments and qualified in regionals, then super regionals. Team 8872 consists of nine graduating seniors, four juniors, and two sophomores. The robotics team focuses on teaching the core values of STEM and the main principle of FTC Robotics, Gracious Professionalism. Gracious Professionalism is the idea that teams can be competitive, yet still, treat each other with respect and get help from each other. For example, one team may lend another a spare battery or motors if they need, and it can be considered Gracious Professionalism. The team teaches the new members and the other team valuable skills such as using CAD, soldering wires and various electronic components. They also teach mechanical building skills like designing and building the various components of the robot. The team assists other ongoing activities at school, such as laser cutting the trophies for the Smash and Rocket League tournaments that took place earlier this year. Many of the members of Robopocalypse are graduating at the end of this year and the remainder of team hopes that they can continue on to Nationals in next year’s tournament. The teams are planning on holding an event to garner more interest and hopefully get more members for the next few years.

Team 8872 Robopocalypse’s robot was named Guess.