Local robotics teams look ahead to next competition

Krystle Wagner • Mar 29, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Grand Haven and Fruitport F.I.R.S.T. Robotics teams recently went up against 40 other teams in their second competitive event of the 2018 season.

During the West Michigan District Event at Grand Valley State University, March 22-24, the Grand Haven Buc’n’Gears finished in 14th place, while the Fruitport Techno Trojans finished 21st.

For the second time this season, Grand Haven earned the Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories. Grand Haven High School senior Alexandra Holt, the team’s safety captain, won the UL Star of the Day Award.

Fruitport earned the Team Spirit Award sponsored by the FCA Foundation.

Fruitport coach Joe Hebert said his team was able to overcome some of the challenges they faced during the St. Joseph competition, March 8-10. The team previously struggled with the control system. Hebert said he’s pleased students and coaches were able to go through the programming and fix lines of code, which corrected the problem.

“Our drivers operated the robot with great efficiency at Grand Valley,” he said. “It was a night-and-day difference.”

GHHS coach Chuck Priese said the Buc’n’Gears team was able to add a climbing hook to their robot between the St. Joseph and West Michigan competitions, which led to several successful climbs.

Priese said that competing in F.I.R.S.T. is hard work.

“We spend an enormous amount of hours preparing for competition, and I’m very pleased with the steadfastness of the team,” he said.

Teams meet weekly from September through December, and then work for six weeks to build their competition robot. Competitions take place in March and April.

Priese noted the 2018 GHHS team is the largest to date.

“Each student that manages to make it through has demonstrated they have perseverance and should be proud,” he said.

The 2018 F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics game “Power Up” is a theme modeled after a 1980s arcade game. Part of the game requires robots to move “power cubes” onto a balance, which teams need to make tip in their favor.

During the competition, teams compete in alliances comprised of three teams. Hebert said one neat thing about the West Michigan District Event was being on an alliance with other Lakeshore teams. As alliance captains, the Buc’n’Gears selected Fruitport and Mona Shores to join their alliance, he said.

Looking ahead, the Techno Trojans will compete at the District Alpena Event in early April. The team hopes to earn enough points to qualify for the state competition. Hebert said they already have about a third of the needed points.

Hebert said they’ve looked at the team’s statistics and found places where they did well, such as climbing and offensive power. The team also found they have missed opportunities to earn points during the first 15 seconds of matches when robots perform tasks without a driver or human intervention. Hebert said they weren’t able to get that part of their program up and running until the last qualifying match of the day, and they plan to change that before going to Alpena.

The Buc’n’Gears are in the process of fundraising for upcoming competitions and the 2019 season.

Next up for Grand Haven is the state competition, where Priese said 160 teams are expected. He said his estimates put Grand Haven close to the cutoff.

The team is currently ranked 80th out of Michigan’s 508 teams. That ranking changes as other teams compete in district events.

“We have to wait for two more weeks of competitions to be completed before we know for certain if we qualify,” Priese said.

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