Gun­ston stu­dents com­pete in re­gional ro­bot­ics chal­lenge

Record Observer - - Community -

CEN­TRE­VILLE — Eight Gun­ston stu­dents built a ro­bot as part of the First Tech Chal­lenge (FTC) com­pe­ti­tion which is spon­sored by the FIRST ro­bot­ics pro­gram. The Gun­ston Team was one of 20 teams from all across Mary­land and nearby states that com­peted at the Naval Academy on Jan. 22 and one of 32 teams that com­peted at Oakland Mills High School in Howard County on the Jan. 29.

Show­cased at th­ese events, the ro­bots built by stu­dents per­formed com­pli­cated tasks such as push­ing the cor­rect but­ton on a bea­con, shoot­ing balls into goals, and ma­nip­u­lat­ing a large yoga ball. The game was di­vided into two phases. First, the ro­bot had to per­form tasks au­tonomously by sens­ing and re­act­ing to its en­vi­ron­ment; next three stu­dents were able to con­trol the ro­bots us­ing game pads.

As a team, the stu­dents from Gun­ston cre­ated an en­gi­neer­ing note­book that de­scribed their strat­egy, pro­posed de­signs, and prob­lems that the team over­came along the way. At the com­pe­ti­tion the stu­dents had to de­scribe and de­fend their de­sign in front of a panel of en­gi­neers. Real world en­gi­neer­ing chal­lenges like FTC teach stu­dents to fol­low the en­gi­neer­ing pro­cesses that they will use in their fu­ture ca­reers.

Eight stu­dents built the ro­bot dur­ing the fall se­mes­ter dur­ing their ro­bot­ics course and nine build­ing ses­sions over the hol­i­days. Suter Phillips worked on de­sign, Nikki Blades on doc­u­men­ta­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tion, and Sam War­gotz and Ryan Red­ding worked on con­struc­tion. Jamie Caron was the rules and strat­egy ex­pert. Gar­rett Ru­dolphs and Ge­orge Bowie pro­gramed ro­bot and Alli Webb helped with di­verse tasks. Dur­ing the matches, Ge­orge, Sut­ter, Gar­rett, and Sam took turns as act­ing as ro­bot driv­ers and team coaches. The group was men­tored by Gun­ston physics teacher Dr. Ken Wil­son and Gun­ston di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy Joe Thomp­son. Gun­ston stu­dent So­phie Cooper worked with Nikki Blades to de­sign the team logo of a Heron built of gears.

This is the third year the team 9530 “the Herons” par­tic­i­pated in the FTC com­pe­ti­tion and each year the ro­bot de­sign has im­proved. Wil­son com­mented that the ba­sic de­sign of the ro­bot body was the best that the Herons team had pro­duced. Com­pared to their ear­lier ef­forts, this year’s ro­bot, af­fec­tion­ately dubbed “Steve” by the stu­dents, was ro­bust, easy to work on, and very nim­ble on the play­ing field, said Wil­son.

Wil­son and Thomp­son agreed, the com­pe­ti­tions al­ways pro­duce un­ex­pected chal­lenges and the stu­dents in the pit crew have to work out the kinks in real time un­der stress­ful con­di­tions. The stu­dents learn how to work to­gether as a team to sys­tem­at­i­cally find and solve prob­lems. The Gun­ston team per­formed es­pe­cially well at team­work in the pit: they were calm and fo­cused which al­lowed them con­stantly im­prove their scores as they par­tic­i­pated in a to­tal of 10 matches across the two events.

This year’s team was pri­mar­ily com­posed of se­niors, some of whom have par­tic­i­pated in the ro­bot­ics team for sev­eral years. They be­queath to the 2018 team pro­grams, de­sign and a work­ing ro­bot. Wil­son said he is sorry to see them go but con­fi­dent that the pro­gram that they have built will con­tinue to im­prove over the com­ing years.

From left, Team 9530 mem­bers, Sut­ter Phillips ‘17 of Stevensville, Sam War­gotz ‘17 of Gra­sonville, Nikki Blades ‘17 of Trappe, Ge­orge Bowie ‘17 of Still Pond, Ryan Red­ding ‘17 of Galena, Gar­rett Ru­dolfs of Cen­tre­ville, and Jamie Caron ‘17 of Ch­ester­town.

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