FIRST Robotics Team 3003 TAN[X]
Nationals: FIRST Championship- April 24-27- Detroit, Michigan- 600 teams participating
FirST Finger Lakes Robotics Competition - RIT - 2nd Place
Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition- Cleveland, Ohio- 2nd PLace
FIRST is an acronym meaning "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" and was created to emulate an athletics experience with a competitive, team oriented, high energy environment but focused on real life.
FIRST Robotics is international. As an example, at the RIT competition in addition to the US teams there were teams from China, Mexico, and Canada.
FIRST Robotics is more than technology. It is emulating a business where you also need skills in communication, marketing, graphic arts, finance, web design, etc.
FIRST Robotics has a high emphasis on community service and 'paying it forward'. Reaching out to help other, even your competitors, is a core value called 'gracious professionalism'.
In 2019, there is about $80 million in college scholarships available to participants in FIRST Robotics.
How long has the team been working on creating the Robot?
Each year, the challenge is revealed worldwide on the first Saturday of the year (this year was Jan 5th) and we put the completed robot in a sealed bag at 9:00 p.m. on Feb 19th (6 week build season).
- After ‘bag and tag’ we can only work on the robot directly when we’re at competitions. We can, however, work on limited separate items and bring them to competition to try to integrate into the robot. (this is part of the continuous learning and improvement regarding our design)
In addition, during the ‘off season’ we worked on our core skills to be better prepared for the build season.
- We worked on learning computer aided design, how to use the technology department tools such as the Mill, Lathe, CNC, etc.
- We learned about programming
- We learned about electrical controls, motors, etc.
How do you win? What does the robot and team need to know to win a round or be successful during competition?
You win a match by scoring the most points. Each match is a 3 team alliance pitted against a 3 team alliance. You get different amounts of points based on what your robot does
- Points for moving off of different level platforms at beginning of match
- Points for placing disc like ‘hatches’ onto compartments to cover an opening
- Points for placing basketball sized ‘cargo’ into compartments that have had ‘hatches’ placed on them
- Points for climbing to different level platforms at end of match
The Tan[X] team needed to know the performance capabilities of their robot and the capabilities of their alliance partners. In addition, the team needed to know the competitor’s capabilities. From this a match strategy is created and changes for each match.
- Robot performance capability information is gathered through team scouting during the qualification matches.
A team has to be adaptable. This is both in strategy and in dealing with the inevitable problems that occur from the wear and tear of matches. The natural analogy is with a NASCAR pit team. They have to be able to fix anything that comes up in a very short period of time. For us this really didn’t show up until the elimination matches where different things broke and we had to get the robot back up and running within minutes. In some instances it meant changing our role in a match to correspond with the current state of the robot.
- It’s a truly team effort from the initial design decisions made on the robot’s capabilities to the team driving it on the field to the team in the pits keeping it up and running to the team scouting competitors to aid in our winning strategy. All this with the support and guidance of school and industry knowledgeable mentors.
Different teams can join alliances each match (partners and competitors) until elimination matches where your alliance is fixed.
What skills do students learn during robotics?
While tough to list everything, skills learned by the students during robotics encompass teamwork, problem solving, cooperation, business values, marketing, interpersonal skills, engineering, shop practices, manufacturing, safety and gracious professionalism.
In addition, a critical one is program/project management. We have only 6 weeks from the point we get the challenge until we are done building. It’s a real-life challenge that we all live with professionally and exposing the students to this is a real eye opener. They learn about making decisions where there isn’t full or perfect information, staying within a budget, making trade-offs between what’s desired and what’s realistic given the constraints (time, money, capabilities).
- A great example of this for this team is they made a decision early on we can’t do everything. They consciously chose to focus on only 2 of the 3 possible aspects of the challenge but to do both of those well (instead of doing all 3 average…).
Most importantly they gain confidence. Confidence in themselves and in working with their teammates. They learn about success through themselves and others. My personal favorite aspect of Robotics is watching the transformation of the students through the season(s) both technically and interactively.
What were the results of the competition at RIT in early March?
During the qualification matches we ranked 4th (out of 48) enabling us to captain a three team alliance in the 8 alliance elimination matches. This led to our 2nd place finish where we lost the tiebreaker match in best of three finals.
- Our team formed our alliance with Team 340 - Greater Rochester Robotics (GRR) team of Churchville-Chili Central School in Churchville, NY and Team 120 - Cleveland’s Team of Youth Technology Academy in Cleveland, OH
Team 3003 also won the prestigious Quality Design Award, celebrating our robot’s robustness in concept and fabrication.
A key strength was our consistency in the climbing (we made it 100% of attempts) which was an effective design incorporating multiple sensors, motors, a threaded rod lift, and automation via programming.
Photos provided by Karl Dueland
FIRST Robotics is all about team. In fact, you cannot succeed as an individual. The competitions are structured around alliances of 3 teams. In qualification matches you are paired up with different teams each match. Teaches you a lot about working with others and forces you to interact with others you’ve never met before.