Everyone is a winner with FIRST robotics

ALPENA –Twenty-four teams from schools around the state gathered on Nov. 4 for the Bots on the Bay Northern Michigan FIRST Robotics Off-Season Event at Alpena High School.

The alliance team of V2 Robotics from Alpena High School, Wiking Kujon from Posen Consolidated High School, and Delta Force from Inland Lakes High School won the offseason tournament.

“It went so smoothly,” teacher Melissa Doubek said. “John Diamond put a lot of work into organizing this event to make it a fantastic opportunity for these young kids. The kids can get involved in FIRST Robotics, see what it looks like, experience the excitement, and get them hooked.”

Alpena High School had four teams participate in the tournament: Team 5505 V2 Robotics, Team 5230 The Resistance, Team 9230 Wildcat Robotics, and Team 9505 Wildcats & Friends.

“I think it went really well,” senior Tyler Smigelski said. “It was a good dry run for the actual season tournament.”

The competition was played on a 27-foot-by-54-foot field with two alliances of three teams each. Each alliance was able to score points based on three elements: A boiler that receives fuel (whiffle balls), a shared center airship that starts when it receives enough gears, and ropes that robots climb to signal that they are ready for takeoff.

Each match began with a 15-second autonomous period where the robots operate independently of human control. During that period, the robots attempt to move far enough to cross their baseline, deliver gears to the center airship and deposit fuel in the boilers.

During the remaining two minutes and 15 seconds of the match, which is called the teleop period, robots are controlled by student drivers from behind their wall at the end of the field. The three teams on the alliances work together to continue delivering gears to the airship and fuel to the boilers. At the end of the match, the robots climbed the rope to show that they were ready for takeoff.

“It was good to work with the other teams,” freshman Matt Diamond said. “When something breaks, you need to work on it on the fly, problem solve, be quick about it, and be efficient. You have a lot of team building which is going to really help in the future.”

Diamond said the main difference for this tournament was the Alpena students didn’t have to drive hours to get to a tournament and bring everything with them. They had everything already at the high school and everything was familiar to them.

Most of the teams at the event were driving with inexperienced drivers so those drivers can get experience before the upcoming season. Alpena had two full teams of freshmen running the robots during the tournament.

“It’s a great time right now for them to learn how to drive because it’s not straight into the season,” Smigelski said. “Once the season begins in January, they will know what they are doing. It’s a learning opportunity for them.”

The high school will be hosting a FIRST Robotics competition the first week in April and the offseason tournament helped prepare the teams for success when the season officially begins in January.

“When we start in January, it’s a whole new game and the kids have to come back to the drawing board, redesign robots and be creative again,” Doubek said.

Participating in the offseason tournament helped expose the new students in robotics to what FIRST Robotics is all about.

“We are always excited to see growth because we think we can help in the community,” senior Ian Smith said. “We have the kids who are going here, going to school and then coming back if there are jobs in the area.”

Sophomore Noah McGee participated in what was his first robotics competition and said that it was completely different from what he thought it would be.

“I thought it went pretty good,” McGee said. “I’m now ready for the big competition in the spring.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.