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Robotics team gears up for build season

Gunn Robotics Team (GRT) is preparing for the 2014 season, with high hopes of winning regionals. The team looks forward to its first tournament of the year in March, the Hub City Regional in Texas that will feature foreign and unfamiliar competition. The Wisconsin Regional will take place from March 20-22 in Milwaukee, about two weeks after Hub City.

In April, GRT will face tough Bay Area teams at the Silicon Valley Regional. However, team captain senior Catherine Nguyen believes their sufficient preparation and new prototyping process called the alpha bot will result in success. “This year we’re stronger as a team, and I have high hopes that our robot will do better at regionals because of the higher level of participation and dedication from all students and our new implementation of alpha bot,” she said.

Each season the First Robotics Competition (FRC) creates a game with objectives for robots. The 2014 game is called “Aerial Assist,” in which robots assist each other to move 24-inch game balls down the field and into low or high goals to score. The more the robots assist each other, the higher their bonus points will be. According to Nguyen, the objective is similar to that of 2008’s event, and a bit easier than last year’s game.

This year, GRT plans on improving in specific areas in order to provide for a more cohesive game strategy. “Last year we had integration problems, which is the flow from one mechanism to the other, so this year we’re looking for smoother transitions so that the ball gets from A to B,” Nguyen said.

In order to construct an effective robot, GRT goes through three stages in a period of six weeks. GRT has already concluded the alpha stage of producing the robot, which includes going over rules, offensive and defensive strategies, and brainstorming potential mechanisms for catching, shooting, picking up the ball and defending. The team of 54 separates into groups to synthesize their ideas into a concept represented by a rough, wood prototype. After evaluation of these prototypes, the beta stage of computer-aided designing and metal machining commenced. Soon, the robot’s final stage, called omega, will begin to finalize assembly and hardware and software assimilations.

Each regional competition lasts three days, consisting of 40 to 50 teams competing in alliances of three in each round. The first day is devoted to practicing with their robots and controls on actual playing fields. Qualifiers occur on the second day, and the last day is the last qualifier round to determine the best eight teams to move on to the playoffs. According to mentor Katrina Granlund-Moyer, if GRT is on the winning alliance, they are invited to the championships. “It’s three days of intense, really loud and engaging competition,” she said. “Even when we aren’t competing, we watch other teams and collect information on their robots.”

By the end of the season, GRT’s mentors hope for a proud group of students regardless of the outcome of the competitions. “My goal, along with the other mentors, is to have the students experience the real workplace environment; independently and collaboratively creating concepts, testing them and increasing their self-confidence,” Granlund said.

 

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