Guest Contributor: Noah Lambie
Taft Tech showed up to OSU’s Kelley Engineering center on Sunday, February 8th in anticipation of their first ever FTC High School Robotics Qualifying Tournament. Facing experienced robot teams from all over the region, the Taft high school team was tired from their early morning drive from Lincoln City, but they unloaded their robot, handed over their engineering notebook, and prepared for the inspection. Little did they know the adventure that awaited them.
Things started off well. The team breezed through the robot inspection. But the next phase was the software inspection, and it turned out we were missing a ‘Samantha’ module and two necessary programs on the NXT robot brain. The software programs were called ‘Santosan’, and ‘Program Chooser’. It turned out we were one of two teams using Labview software for programming. The other 22 teams used ‘RobotC’. The two necessary programs were absent from our Labview software, so the students bravely set forth to find these files somewhere, and load them on their robot.
It took them about two hours, but they finally located the correct programs and loaded them on the NXT brain. The final missing piece, the Samantha module, was donated to Taft from another team. Hopeful, Taft Tech headed out to the practice arena for another inspection. They passed, but when they moved the robot to the practice arena for the field test, it failed to connect to the Wi-Fi operating the controllers. So Taft Tech returned to the pit, set back but determined to work on their robot.
With the help of another team, Taft Tech was able to convert their NXT brain programming to the more common ‘RobotC’ programming. This was no easy task, and in fact involved programming and transferring as the team was walking up to their first appearance in the arena. Just as they disconnected the USB, Taft Tech placed their robot on the ramp for the first round.
Despite being completely worn out from the early morning drive and the busy, stressful morning antics, Taft Tech represented well in their 5 rounds, winning two rounds (in each round 2 teams ally against 2 others), and finishing 18th. The field of robots was really quite spectacular, with conveyor belts, sweeping devices, extensions, gears, and sophisticated sensors. After the event, Taft was tired… and inspired. Eneki Trujillo explained, “Many hoops were jumped through”, to which Hunter Bishop added, “at a very fast pace”. Hunter went on to say that “The experience was amazing, especially to go to OSU to compete”. “And to see OSU’s Mars Rover,” Eneki added.
FTC stands for First Tech Challenge, and is the step between FIRST Lego League Robotics (Elementary and Middle School) and First Robotics Competition (for grades 9-12 with large robots and complex missions). The theme for this year’s FTC season was ‘Cascade Effect’, and the arena, a square 12’ x 12’, had a bin of whiffle balls held in an elevated tub in the center. The goal of each robot is to release the balls from the bin, and then load the balls into large vertical plastic tubes. Points can also be earned by ending inside designated areas, and for placing the plastic tubes in particular places.
The Taft Tech team emerged from students in Noah Lambie’s Advanced Robotics class at Taft, who decided to take this mission on, and worked on it every day for a few months. They ended up building a robot with an elevating arm and pinching claw, which could pick up one of the whiffle balls, and elevate it to drop into the plastic tubes. They also had to program software that moved the robot during the autonomous period, and allowed them to wirelessly control the robot during the rest of the 2:30 time period. Taft Tech found many avenues for support. Taft High bought the team the Tetrix base kit, which provided the aluminum building pieces. The Oregon Coast Stem Hub provided funds for travel, food, and Bluetooth devices. The team also fundraised at a home basketball game with a paper airplane contest, and allowed those interested to test the robot for themselves.
Watch a short video of Taft Tech and their robot in action!
Noah Lambie teaches Physics, Art, and Engineering classes at Taft High 7-12 and coaches the Taft Tech FTC team. He is also a Mentor Teacher with the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.