Robotics Team Qualifies for NYC Championship

Midwood’s Rolling Drones, Bötley Crüe, and Pink Droyd competed at John Dewey.  Photo Credit: Ashley Zheng

Midwood’s Rolling Drones, Bötley Crüe, and Pink Droyd competed at John Dewey. Photo Credit: Ashley Zheng

By ASHLEY ZHENG AND ERIC ZENG 

Midwood’s three robotics teams, The Rolling Drones, Bötley Crüe, and Pink Droyd, competed at the F.I.R.S.T Tech Challenge (FTC) at John Dewey High School on December 9.   

The FTC is a competition for students in grades 7–12  to design, build, and program a robot. This year’s task consisted of scooping cubes and unloading them into a corner. There were five matches and three members on each drive team. Drive teams consisted of a coach and two drivers who controlled the robot. Each match was divided into two teams with alliances from different schools.         

The top four teams made it to the semifinals in this competition. The Rolling Drones and Bötley Crüe placed second and fourth respectively, which gave them a spot in the semifinals. 

During the finals, the four teams were allowed to choose two alliance teams to compete with. The Rolling Drones chose their sister team Pink Droyd, which ranked 16th. Bötley Crüe ultimately beat their two sister teams and won the semifinals. They lost the finals but still received a spot at the NYC qualifiers.  

All teams and coaches had to show up at 8 am to set up their robots and prepare for the competition at 12pm. The competition ended around 5pm. 

With over 15 people crowding around each station, members watched closely, cheering on their fellow teammates. The bleachers were filled with coaches and families. The pressure was on.

All robots were made of Tetrix Ports, Plexiglass, and wood. The robots had a 18”x18”x10” size constraint and were controlled using remote controllers through bluetooth.

“The process was long, and tough ideas were made here and there, but not many worked, so we were always changing,” said Luka Khiblashvili ’20, the engineering notebook organizer. 

Despite the lack of practice, all three teams still managed to compete in the semifinals.

“We actually didn’t practice for the whole week,” said Rana Mohamed ’19, Captain of Bötley Crüe. “We weren’t as prepared as we wanted to be.”

Throughout the competition, the team faced many technological difficulties. 

“We do have some inevitable circumstances that we cannot fix,” said Mohamed. “During the end game, we lost 50 points because the app controlling the robot crashed.”

“Our phones froze for three matches, a crucial moment that could’ve won us the final.” said Kevin Zhou ’19, former builder and supporter of the robotics club.

During one of Pink Droyd’s matches, the controllers had some programming issues. 

 “I felt everything was going downhill,” said Jack Luo ’19, the driver for Pink Droyd. “However, we were able to troubleshoot the connection with the controllers, and it started working. This allowed us to win the match and move to first place.” 

“Technology is constantly bugged with glitches,” said Mr. Cameron Jahn, the Robotics team coach. “It’s expensive to get new technology.”

Midwood’s robotics team also had to adjust to different programming languages while creating their robot.

“Programming was the most difficult task for Pink Droyd since we had to adapt to a new programming language,” said Luo. “We were used to using RobotC, but now we have to use Java, which we had to learn from scratch.” 

The time crunch also presented a challenge.  

“Our biggest struggle was time management,” said Tina Chen ’19, coach of the Rolling Drones. “Towards the start of the competition, we were not sure when to latch the robot in order to get the most number of points.”

Latching is when the robots lifts itself up and is hooked and hanging under the lander. 

For the next competition, the team plans to to get in additional practice. 

 “We will make sure our weight distribution is even to avoid issues with latching,” said Mohamed. “We also want to make simple additions to the robot that will make its performance better.” 

There was a situation where one teammate was missing during the competition and the match had to go on without them. 

“I was nervous since our team was missing a person,” said Ethan Yan ’19, captain of Pink Droyd. “Everything felt nerve racking and like we were going to lose. However, we won in the end, and the pressure on our backs was relieved. The win felt very rewarding.” 

While the Midwood’s two robotics coaches looked on, they offered advice for the future. 

“I was having some mixed emotions,” said Ms. Lisa Ali, the robotics team coach. “I felt excited and nervous. My tip for next time would be: less modifying at the last minute, and more practicing.” 

Mr. Jahn said, “Be prepared by knowing the rules and the competition. Also: more practice on driving.”

Pink Droyd won an award for their robot’s design for this year’s competition. Additionally, Bötley Crüe successfully qualified for the NYC championship that will take place in February. Pink Droyd and the Rolling Drones will be making their final attempt to qualify for NYC championship on January 13.

FeaturesCasey Levinson