Bot Bumbles 1st Competition

Vaughn Luthringer, Staff Writer

The Robotics Club attended its first competition at The Play Space in San Jose on Saturday, December 3. The FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) event included teams from 11 schools.

The company that regulated the competition, FIRST, is an administrator to four divisions: FIRST Lego League, Jr., FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition.

The challenge issued by FIRST for the 2016-2017 season gave teams the opportunity to pick how they would like to play. The format of the game involved an alliance system.

Beacons lined the border of the ring, and teams pressed buttons to claim the beacon, scoring their alliance points. There were also slanted plates in the corners of the ring that offered parking spots for robots, another point-earning opportunity.

But the main source of point scoring was a little trickier. Robots shot 2.75-inch balls into baskets or raised a large yoga ball into the air and set it into their alliance’s basket.

The Robotics Club has been preparing for the competition since the start of the school year, spending Fridays and Saturdays perfecting their design.

While the competitions began well enough for the Campolindo squad, they eventually encountered problems.

I thought that nothing would work, and then I got my hopes up the first couple rounds,” said junior Arthur Goldblatt, club member. “But then the ball launcher snapped, so at that point, I didn’t think anything would happen for us.” 

The feature to raise the larger ball was still in development at the time of the competition, so that wasn’t an option either. 

“It was decent enough for the first three rounds, but then it kind of broke down afterwards,” said senior and co-club president Stone Mao. The problems didn’t end with the ball launcher, either. Various elements on the robot stopped working completely, allowing it to do very little.

We had a lot of problems with the robot, multiple different problems on pretty much every level,” explained senior club member Cooper LaRhette. 

Some issues were out of the club’s control. Teams participating in the 2016-2017 FTC season could order a “practice package” in order to prepare for competition. The kit included all the materials required to construct an identical replica of the ring at the competition. Unfortunately, the club did not receive it soon enough, giving members limited time to test their robot.

Mao came away from the competition thinking of it as a learning experience. “From this experience, I guess we can get some lessons perhaps not to be so shortsighted,” he said.

Another competition will take place this Saturday, on December 10, at Google Headquarters. This week, the club plans to make major improvements. “I think make the robot more robust, plan and think about the design board,” said LaRhette.