By Lewis Rand ’23
This year there is a new afternoon activity for students: the robotics team. Led by Sixth Form Captain Reed Graff ‘23 and faculty sponsor Dr. David McRae and Mrs. Laura Arnatt the team will compete in the Tech First Challenge, a robotics competition that spans 100 countries. This year’s challenge is titled POWERPLAY and the objective is to move cones around the field, racking up points in the process. Four teams compete in each round, with the teams divided into two alliances. Each round begins with an autonomous period, where the robot must control itself, which is followed by a driver-controlled period where the team members control the robot.
Though their first competition will not be until January the team has been hard at work every afternoon in Reynolds Computer Lab. As the season has progressed, the way the team utilizes their practice time has changed. As their engineering and coding skills improved, they have begun preparing for their upcoming competitions.
“Typical meetings are more hands-on… we have a whiteboard in the computer lab where we talk about what we want to do in terms of strategy and how to approach the tournament,” said Reed.
To optimize their time the team is split into different groups each handling a different aspect of the project from engineering and designing the robot, to coding, to maintaining the team’s portfolio (which is scored as part of the competition) and social media profile.
Designing and constructing the robot has been particularly challenging.
“We do not have enough funding [to use] all one brand of parts,” explained Reed “so we have to make custom adapters for different parts we have.”
While this is a sizable obstacle, the competition’s rules offer the team the ability to overcome this through machining new parts and even 3D printing some of their own.
“Basically anything you can buy in a hardware store you can use,” said McRae.
Though this team is young they have ambitious goals for the season.
“We want to make it as far as we possibly can, we definitely want to make it to states, we have some people who are very passionate and [we] could make it to nationals if we put the work in,” said Reed.
Looking ahead past this year, Reed is optimistic about the future of the team.
“There are a bunch of people who are really passionate and it is encouraging and we definitely have future leadership which is very nice,” Reed explained.
While the team will have to wait until January to test out their machine and skills it is clear that they are hard at work preparing for what is sure to be an exciting season.
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