Power Up

After spending an intense six weeks working on the most complex robot Forest Hill has ever seen, it was finally time for our robotics competition at York University. This year’s robot was equipped with a pneumatic (pressurized air-based) intake system and conveyor belt to play in this years’ FIRST robotics competition. Our game strategy was to be a quick, nimble, low-profile robot that could perform its task with consistency and efficiency.

As we passed inspection and tested our primary mechanisms, we knew it was time for our first match of the competition. It began with an unfortunate start, as our robot’s pre-written code did not execute as intended in the autonomous phase of the game. Nevertheless, with a little bit of luck, we managed to get through this portion of the match unscathed. When the tele-op phase of the match began, our driver rushed to grab the Xbox controller to manually command our robot to pick up cubes and put them in the necessary locations. The first couple of cubes were successfully placed without much difficulty, but after those, we found ourselves unable able to pick up anymore. Confused, as from the driver station we could not tell what was wrong with the robot, we kept attempting to pick up cubes, failing each and every time. We lost our first match by a substantial margin, but this was not of much importance when compared to the fact that a piece of metal on the robot’s intake was bent. We quickly rushed back to our pit where we replaced the warped gusset plate and reinforced it with another one. With this out the way, we felt more confident that our performance would improve.

The following match began pretty innocently; the robot’s code was still error-filled, but we came close to figuring out the root of the issue. The match was going decently until our robot crashed into one of the field elements, ripping the entire intake mechanism off of the robot. As I saw the robot’s arm dragging across the field, I thought this damage would be irreparable. After the match, we all rushed onto the field hoping to fix the robot as quickly as humanly possible only to find out that our next match was in a short ten minutes. This next match was humiliating; without an intake mechanism on the robot, there was little we could do to contribute. Following a few frustrating games without an intake on our robot, we finally had the chance to reattach the arm of the robot to finally be able to play the game as intended. Learning our lesson, we used a combination of bolts and rivets to hold the intake mechanism to the robot in a more secure fashion. Additionally, we found the issue with our autonomous code and corrected it.

It was an incredible feeling for us to finally get the chance to play our game as intended. Our autonomous code did exactly what we needed it to, we finally got the chance to play our own game rather than one set out for us by our alliance partners, and we got to show all of the other teams at the competition that team 5699, the Robo Sapiens, came to play.

Despite all of these setbacks, this experience was anything but a failure. We were able to build a robot that could accomplish what we intended it to, had the opportunity to express our creativity a medium that unlike any other, fundraised thousands of dollars so that the team could run, worked alongside professional engineers, and most importantly went from a group of nerd building robots in a biology room to a family. And of course, we had the chance to work with inarguably the most dedicated teachers in the school who sacrificed enormous amounts of time away from their families so we could undertake this incredible project. I would like to extend the sincerest thank you to our lead mentors, Mr. Kleiman and Ms. Wilk. In the most literal sense, this would not have been possible without their work on the robot and behind the scenes. Robotics has been the single most fulfilling activity for myself and many other members of the team and I will look back upon as the single most important activity I could have taken part in in my high school career. At the end of the day, we don’t build robots, robots build us.

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