[photo credit Daniel Ernst]
Christian and Rebecca are members of FRC Team #4819, the Flat Mountain Mechanics, who designed, built, and programmed this robot.
Earlier in March we traveled to Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, to compete with 39 other teams from our state.
FRC, which stands for FIRST Robotics Competition, is an international organization encouraging high school students to design, build, and program robots to compete with robots from other teams.
According to the FRC Website:
“The varsity Sport for the Mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of 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.
Team #4819 was formed just this year and is comprised of both home-schooled and public-schooled teens in our area. There are actually only 17 students on the roster, making it a relatively-small rookie team. (We overheard that at least one team attending the Flint competition had over 100 students on their roster!)
This year’s challenge, which began in January 2013, is titled “The Ultimate Ascent.” Robots earn points by either climbing a pyramid-like tower and/or flinging frisbies into various goals. Here is a view of the game field during one of our matches at Kettering. In this match, you can find Team #4819’s robot near the top of the blue tower on the left.
Christian has spent hundreds of hours programming the robot to perform the challenge. Amazingly, our 15-year-old freshman has become the lead programmer of Team #4819!
Rebecca has been dubbed the “Bumper Queen” by her teammates. She was instrumental in building and installing the blue and red bumpers on the robot. These fabric-covered pool noodles not only cushion the robot to prevent significant damage but are switched to indicate whether our robot is part of the blue alliance or the red alliance for individual matches in the competition. The FRC has specific guidelines for the bumpers (and for every other portion of the robot), and Rebecca studied these rules to ensure the team’s compliance.
Terry is one of the volunteer mentors for their team, providing guidance in programming the robot. He and our students have dedicated countless hours to this robot project. On top of martial arts classes, Rebecca’s violin lessons, and Terry’s bowling league, we’ve been crazily busy this semester. Nearly every day/evening (Monday through Saturday) has been filled with some sort of activity!
Alliances for qualifying matches are randomly assigned by FRC staff. Three teams are assigned to each alliance. In the match scores pictured above, our team was part of the red alliance, and our tower climb provided 30 of our alliance’s points. Throughout the qualifying rounds, the points that your alliances have earned are tallied. Teams with the highest number of accumulative points move on into championship rounds and are able to choose the other teams to join in their alliance.
For the Flint competition, our team’s robot focused solely on climbing. Before each match begins, all the robots must be placed touching their alliance’s color-coded tower. Two team members (not pictured) occupy the drivers’ station, monitoring information from the robot’s sensors and using joysticks to drive the robot.
Here, our robot had already latched onto the first bar of the tower and began pulling itself up.
On to the second level.
Now reaching for the third. Watching from a balcony above the arena is Rebecca along with some of her teammates.
Third level achieved!
[photo credit Daniel Ernst]
Of the 40 teams participating at the Kettering competition, our robot was the most consistent climber over the 2-day event. We consistently scored 30 points in every match! After all qualifying rounds, our Team #4819 was seeded 11th. Our team was selected by a higher-seeded team to join them in an alliance for the quarterfinals. This blue alliance, unfortunately, lost in the quarterfinals. I’m still so proud that our rookie team performed so well!
Celebrating their success, Team #4819 was given numerous awards by fellow FRC teams, including this “Best Climber” award.
Their awards were proudly displayed in the pit area, where the robot is wheeled between matches to be tended.
While in the pit area, all people are required to wear safety glasses:)
In addition to those awards from fellow teams, the Flat Mountain Mechanics received 2 awards from the official FRC panel of judges:
Rookie All-Star Award
Highest Rookie Seed
Soon we’ll drive to Troy, Michigan, for another district competition. Please pray for our teens to have another successful and safe adventure!
P.S. Team #4819, the Flat Mountain Mechanics, welcomes donations from businesses and individuals who wish to support their efforts. Although the team has received some grants and sponsors, the families of these 17 students must cover the remaining robot-construction and competition expenses. If you feel compelled to support Team #4819, we would hugely appreciate your assistance. Thank you!