JAY — Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team 3930 is two-thirds of the way through the build season for this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition, Infinite Recharge, and has made some adjustments to how it will approach the challenge.

Each year in early January the game or challenge for the year is announced online by FIRST Robotics Competition
(FRC). FIRST, an abbreviation of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, held its first robotics competition in 1992.

According to the FIRST Robotics Competition website: “FRC is the ultimate Sport for the Mind. High-school student participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” Under strict rules, limited time and resources, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.”

SMART drive co-captain Annabelle Collins explained how this year’s challenge works. “Our robot is pre-programmed to complete tasks autonomously when Stage 1 starts. Power cells, small dodge balls, are shot through openings in the power port. There are two higher openings, one within another plus a lower one.

“As soon as nine cells enter the power port, Stage 2 starts. Once 20 power cells enter the power port a control panel must be rotated to activate Stage 3. 20 more power cells must enter the power port, then the control panel has to be positioned to a certain color.”

Drive co-captain Owen Wilkins said doing so makes the shield generator operational for a climbing stage.

“Robots must hang to make a pull up bar level,” Collins said. “All of that is supposed to happen in two minutes thirty seconds.”

She said in previous years more than one game element had to be manipulated.

“With only one game element this year it makes the game seem so much simpler,” Collins said. “That’s not so at all.

“There is a 28-inch high structure on the field called the trench run. If your robot can fit under it, it makes it so much easier to get from one side of the field to the other. If you can’t, you need to go through the rendezvous that has planks that must be driven over.

“The maximum height this year is 45 inches. Even with a 36-inch robot, trying to zoom across those planks the robot will be tippy depending on what the drive train is.”

Wilkins said one point is earned for entering the lower opening on the power port, two points for the higher one and three points for the one that is further back in the higher opening.

“They all charge the shield generator the same,” he said. “There are 25 points for each robot that hangs (on the bar), 5 points for each robot parked in the rendezvous area and 15 bonus points for the alliance whose robots level the bar.”

Collins said their robot will have a differential drive with pneumatic wheels. A drum wheel shooter will pick up the power cells and quickly aim them towards the top holes in the power port.

“We want to manipulate the control panel and be able to hang,” she said. “We want our robot to be able to get through the trench run so it will be 27.5 inches tall.”

Collins said the team has been struggling with programming the robot. Team members who worked on that in the past have graduated.

“We were left with no knowledge of how to program,” she said.

On Martin Luther King Day when school wasn’t in session, the team went to Mt. Blue High School in Farmington where the Blue Crew robotics team gave them advice. The two teams use different software programs.

SMART member Lily Bailey said the control panel will be a challenge in the game.

“You’ve got to be able to spin it,” she said.

Wilkins said another challenge will be speed.

“Picking up the balls and getting rid of them,” he said. “Also, getting across the field. If we can’t do the trench, getting across the rendezvous is going to be difficult. If we end up wasting too much time, we’re not going to have enough time to complete the goals of the game.”

SMART has 13 members this year, down from about 40 last year. Other members are Acacia Fournier, Scott Jackson, Drew Delaney, Maddie Labonte, Quinn Fournier, Ava Coates, Owen Schwab, Brian Daigle, Myles Labonte and Dan Wilson.

Wilkins said that makes it harder, with less people to do things, and easier because those involved are more dedicated.

Advisor Daniel Lemieux said the team doesn’t have as many professional and community resources as some teams in the program. The team has been meeting 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday, after school until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and often Thursday evenings too.

“We have some great mentors,” he said. “Parents have been feeding us every time we meet.

“We’re getting there. We’re going to get close to the power port, aim for quick shooting. We’ve built a prototype, now we’re building it on the robot.”

Other mentors are Rob Taylor, Sarah Delaney, Rick Dorey, Ann Schwab and Tim Schwab, Chris and Duane Fournier, Jocelyn and Mike Collins, Jen Wilkins and Dan Labonte.

Lemieux demonstrated how at the end of the game two robots attempt to climb on one side of the bar while another hangs on the other end to balance the bar.

“It’s not really like a teeter totter because the center of gravity is higher,” he said.

SMART will be competing March 13-15 at the North Shore Event in Reading, Massachusetts and April 2-4 at the Pine Tree Event in Lewiston, Maine. If it does well at those events, it may be invited to compete April 8-11 at the New England District Championship in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The team will also attend the FIRST World Championship, April 28 – May 2 in Detroit, Michigan, with or without their robot. The team hopes to compete there, not just watch. It plans to visit museums and historic places.

SMART advisor Daniel Lemieux shows how robots must hang to level a bar during the Infinite Recharge challenge. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

SMART member Owen Schwab shows the mockup he made from LEGOs of an element used in the Infinite Recharge challenge. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls AdvertiserPicasa


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