The TGS Hawks upper school robotics program has two teams: 7840 and 3666. In a conversation with team captain, Daniel Shevelev '19, I learned of the three technical matches facing both upper school teams.
Both groups competed in the Tucson Qualifying FIRST Tech Challenge at San Miguel High School on Saturday, December 8, 2018. There were 18 teams from across Arizona and New Mexico. While one of the teams was undefeated in all 9 matches, the two teams together won the tournament.
Each robot develops a persona through this process. The names, over the years, have been interesting and often tell a backstory. While I didn't get those stories (just yet!), I can share their names.
Team 7840: Pablo
Team 3666: Luna Glob MK2
- The Coding Stage: Students must develop their robots to self-navigate the playing field through the press of a button. To begin the game, the robot is attached to a hook and is suspended four inches from the ground. The machine needs to detach itself, lower itself to the ground, and navigate the course through coded sensory reactions. Think driverless car! At the back of the field, there are pictures that the robot will "see" through the use of a built-in camera, recognize, and avoid.
Team 3666 has won the Control Award in this category.
- The Driver Stage: In this challenge, students use controllers and advanced functions to direct the robots to pick up small cubes or spheres and place them into a centerpiece that's divided into sections. It might sound easy, but it's not. The navigation of the robot is the work of two teammates and the direction of a team coach, all working in symbiosis to find success.
- End Game: The primary goal here is for the robot to lift itself off the ground by finding and attaching to a tiny hook on the centerpiece. To accomplish this, students must have mastered the physics concepts of leverage, weight displacement, strength, speed. This challenge is the show-stopper and achieving it is a crowning moment for a team.
We have some veteran FIRST gamers on these teams. You may recall that in the 2016-17 school year, team 3666 won the state of Arizona, attended the western United States tournament in Washington, and qualified for the World Championships in Texas. Our seniors were underclassmen, then, and they recognize the importance of mentorship and legacy. There are high expectations of all team members, this year. Their sites are set on mastery and winning.
Aside from their building (and re-building and re-building and re-building) and programming the robots, they must all be 100% knowledgeable about Luna Glob MK2 and Pablo. When they are at the tournament, each member will have to answer difficult questions asked by the adjudicating panel. On this level, our students shine. They are true collaborators.
Daniel talked about the inclusiveness of the teams. Both 7840 and 3666 are a blend of new and experienced students. And while the teams are comprised primarily of boys, there are some girls showing interest and participating on different levels. Jillian Cassius '19 was taking the ACT the day of the matches but is a valuable member of the team. She also serves as a mentor to the middle school FIRST Lego League team. Ella Maltzman has been assisting the team with some design and artwork by creating required t-shirts and other items. Daniel did say they are actively seeking girls that are interested in participating. He expressed his thoughts on how having more girls would expand their team skills and, that "we think we're just a nice group of people to hang around with." Please consider these statements as direct recruiting for the program!
With so many graduating seniors in the program, this year, there's also an active legacy-building plan. Christopher McCormick has been the primary coder for the past few years and is critical to the team. He is creating a protege in freshman, Erik Wisnom. Erik is taking his role seriously and is becoming an expert in coding for the games, 3D modeling, and creating those designs on the 3D printer. "I enjoy my work behind the scenes and how it helps the others. As for the 3D printing, it's my job to keep the penguin alive." The "penguin" is their mascot, created by Brian Evans '19, and, apparently, present in many classrooms across campus. In addition to their love for technology, these guys have a great sense of humor, too!
Karl Ramus, another new member and current freshman, described his role as a controller. "It's super stressful. I have to move the robot's arms and claws while Tommy (Belk-Arenas '20) is responsible for the main body. We have to move precisely together, and if I make one wrong move the whole thing breaks, and that would be bad. I'm learning so much about the mechanics, but also how to communicate with someone on a whole new level."
Erik chimed in, quickly, to let me know those match days are also fun. "They're fun, there's food, and we celebrated a birthday this last time. It's also relaxing." And Karl finished his sentence with "...when you're not panicking."
Stay tuned for new throughout the season!
Director of School Advancement