Eagles build a better robot
March 23, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Issaquah High School’s Robotics Society smashed the competition and will go to the national robotics tournament in Georgia April 16-18.
The team won each of its seven matches at the FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — regional tournament in Portland March 5-7.
Each year, teams across the nation are given a challenge to create a robot within six weeks. They start with a standard kit of parts and common rules, but have freedom to engineer, program and design their robot in the best way possible, according to the FIRST Web site.Teams then enter competitions — like the regional event in Portland — form alliances and attempt to prove that their robot can outperform the rest. Think “BattleBots” without as much mayhem and destruction.
Since the Issaquah team was created in 2004, getting to nationals is something team members had hoped to do. But they weren’t sure they would be able to do so this year.
When Issaquah teammates were in the final stages of building in mid-February, several were questioning how well their robot design would perform on the course, which mimics gravity and traction conditions on the moon, said Elyse Edwards, a senior and team member.
“It’s like ice skating. There’s no traction, so we had to figure out a way to get traction,” she said.
They also had to figure out how to make their robot accurately shoot foam moon rocks into the container of another robot to score points, she said. They did that by using a conveyor belt and special automated tracking system.
“The conveyor belt we used for the design, we weren’t quite sure whether it would be effective in the competition,” said John Place, another team member. “That was nerve wracking, to see whether it would work well with the other robots. But we won all seven ranking matches and lost none, so that was epic.”
With nationals looming, team members said they have a lot of additional fundraising to do and could use the community’s help.
“We’re going to try to make it to nationals, but we have a lot of grant writing to do,” Place said.
It would be the second time in the team’s history it has been invited to compete at nationals.
Last year, the team was invited because it won a special award for lobbying during the 2008 state legislative session to raise awareness about FIRST. The lobbying efforts procured $150,000 in funds from the state to begin more FIRST programs in state public schools, Place said.
At least 20 new teams “were created because of the legislation we helped pass,” he said.
The team, and its robot, will face-off again at the Seattle Robotic Regional, held at Key Arena March 27-28.
“Seattle will have 64 teams, but half of those are rookie,” Place said, adding that it will be cool to see how the legislative money they helped raise is being used by new FIRST teams.
Most of all, Issaquah’s team members said they want the community to come see what they do, because the competition is nearby, and to support them.
“We’d love to see the community there,” Edwards said. “We have a lot of sponsors and support from the community, and it would be nice to have them see how it finished.”
Members said they are available to give tours to anyone interested in taking a closer look at the event.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.