A dozen members of the Sequim High School Robotics Club are still hard at work putting the finishing touches on their entry in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition, which will be held March 22-24 in Seattle.
This is the second year the club has participated and they have stepped up their game.
Club member Ella Rickerson said, “Last year our robot was basically six wheels and a motor.”
The rules were different then, she said. “Last year you could be defensive. We just tried to do a couple things well. This year you can’t do that.”
Teams are matched with two other teams to go up against three other robots in what is called a “coopertition.” This year’s match, called the “Rebound Rumble,” will play out on a 27-foot by 54-foot court at the Exhibition Center at CenturyLink Field.
Club members tore apart last year’s robot to collect the salvageable parts, then added the new bits and pieces that will allow them to compete in this year’s match. Among the requirements: The robot must pick up and shoot a small basketball into one of four goals, which range up to 8 feet high, with shots in the highest hoop earning the most points. But before it can take a shot, the “bot” has either to climb over a short wall or to lower a bridge and cross it to get in range.
Club member Zachary McLaughlin pointed out that under the competition’s rules, the Sequim robot could be met by as many as three defensive robots. The key to a win may be reaching “the key” — an area adjacent to the goal that is off-limits to defensive robots.
And, of course, the Sequim robot can be used to play defense, as well.
Stu Marcy, CTE director at Sequim High, said the club’s robot can do it all: lower the bridge, pick up three balls and shoot at the highest hoop.
Marcy added that the “coopertition” involves “balancing up to three robots on one teeter-totter in the last 30 seconds” of the competition. The Sequim team “built its bot to take up less space on that platform in order to accommodate others,” Marcy said.
Marcy said the FIRST Robotics Challenge started last year with a grant from JC Penney through Clallam County 4-H.
“Brad Moore, the robotics instructor at Sequim High School, took up the challenge,” Marcy said.
The Sequim team will meet in a regional challenge pitting 50 teams against each other. A second regional will be held at the same time.
Marcy pointed out, “This is an international completion. We see teams from countries like Turkey or Australia at the Seattle competition because it is the largest regional meet with the most competition.”
Moore said Josh Meyer from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been a huge help as an advisor and has put in as many volunteer hours as the students.
Moore also explained the role of the adult advisors, saying, “The students come up with the design. My job and Josh’s is just to help them.”
Moore also credited Jerry and Gena Royal with 4-H for playing a vital role in ensuring the team’s success.
The 12 “core members” of the team will attend the competition. Organizers hope to raise enough money to bring the remaining seven club members.
The competition isn’t cheap: The cost to register a team is $6,000, which includes a kit of parts.
Marcy said this year the team “added at least $1,200 more in parts.”
To raise money for the effort, the students hosted a pancake breakfast on March 17 at the school to help kick off the school’s Sequim Tech & Media Fair.
Contact the school to donate funds to the club or check with Clallam County 4-H.