Robotics team finishes after six-week long build process

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by Jackie Jin

On Monday evening, February 20, over fifteen Upper School students gathered to put the finishing touches on this year’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition robot.

The past six weeks have been “build season,” a window of time in which high school teams across the country have been constructing robots to compete with each other in district, state, and national competitions.

“[The team] has managed to produce a device which … looks better than anything the team has ever made and has a level of reliability higher than anything the team has ever made,” said faculty advisor Dr. Eric Nelson, who was awarded “Mentor of the Year” for 2011 by the Western Region Robotics Forum at Cal Games. “We had the tools to manufacture the parts needed that we couldn’t purchase, meaning the team relied more on their imagination and less on what we bought.”

This year’s competition requires a robot that can pick up foam basketballs and shoot them into hoops of various heights. The challenge demands the cooperation of the mechanical, electrical, and programming teams.

“The design process of this year’s robot relied heavily on each sub-team’s contributions,” said project manager Pranav Bheda (11). “After our robot wins this competition, it can go straight into the NBA.”

In particular, the programming sub-team experienced many changes.

“This year, we were able to use much more algorithmically complex programs using multi-target clustering algorithms and two-dimensional Fourier transforms to find the goals, and advanced PID motion controllers in the drive team” said chief technical advisor of software development Robert Maxton (12).

Many on the team agree that this year’s efforts have have built on the experiences of previous competitions.

“Since I joined as a freshman I’ve seen the team get better every year,” said team captain Jay Reddy (12). “This year’s game is unique in that it requires a precision shooter, and I think the team is up to the challenge. I look forward to seeing how we do in competition.”