Sunday, March 29, 2015

Maverick Rolls into the FIRST Danger Zone!

Following both the Canada and American national anthems, the stage was set
for the Greece Gladiators (bottom left) first qualifying match of the day. (3/28/15)
Qualifying rounds for this year's Finger Lakes Region FIRST Robotics competition continued Saturday morning at RIT, and after last year's positive experience (my first), I was more than happy to start my Spring Break by supporting my students in this exciting endeavor. While the team had been on site preparing and participating in qualifying rounds the previous two days, this morning was my first opportunity to get out and watch the students at play. As is often the case with school events, it also provided the chance to touch base with alumni and parents, which is always a very welcome by-product of attending.

The Greece Gladiators' (1591) robot,
Maverick, battles to successfully stack
boxes during competition.
As a spectator, I felt much more well-prepared to meaningfully observe (and cheer) as I had kept up with the Greece Gladiators' progress prior to competition. By talking with participating students from my building (it's a district team comprised of students from all four Greece high schools) and working with a student-reporter who researched and wrote a fantastic article for the most recent issue of our school's Trojan Tribune (which I co-edit with a colleague) I had garnered a tiny bit of insight on what to look for. Of course, Gladiators at the competition were also available to proudly clue me in on any nuances I had a questions about.

Each year, participating teams are given a task or "game" for which they must design and build a robot to compete. Last year dealt with propelling a large inflatable ball into a hoop and this year, robots potentially needed a variety of skills, including stacking and moving bins, as well as picking up and propelling foam noodles. When talking with the adult facilitator, a Technology teacher at my school, I was impressed that he and the students had opted to focus on completing one task more fully than others in an effort to maximize their potential to score points.

Maverick gets prepped by student engineers for his next foray into the squared circle. (3/28/15)
The most enjoyable part of the day for me was talking with the students while they prepared their robot for competition. The qualifying rounds come in fairly quick succession, leaving only a short time for any necessary tinkering and repairs. Fortunately our robot, dubbed "Maverick", was a hardy competitor and required little in the way of tuning-up between the two matches I stayed to watch.

Students and adults, including Athena Technology teacher Mr. Mros, discuss
the most recent battle in anticipation of the next qualifying round. (3/28/15)
The laptop and controllers are used to guide Maverick's movements via Wi-Fi. (3/28/15) 
Viewing footage taken during the first match may reveal some insight for
improvement in the second. (3/25/18)
The FIRST Robotics emcee gets the crowd (and teams) jacked to compete! (3/28/15)
The spectacle of FIRST competition is something that really needs to be seen firsthand
to fully appreciate. (3/28/15)
The Gladiators are all business (for the most part) during the pre-match
air guitar 
contest caught here on the big screen. (3/28/15)
Gladiators ready to battle, but others experience the dreaded "technical difficulties." (3/28/15)
The power of Maverick 1591 can only be restrained for so
long! (3/28/15)
The field of battle is looked over by judges: moved crates carry 
values, but yellow crates and foam noodles are worth even more. (3/28/15)
Athena senior Bradley Haag participates in an impromptu (and rousing) performance 
of "Cotton Eyed-Joe".e. (3/28/15)
The match begins with Maverick quickly picking up two crates. (3/28/15)
As part of the Red Alliance, Maverick exposes valuable yellow crates for allied 
robots to extract. (3/28/15)
The Red Alliance and Maverick build a solid advantage. (3/28/15)
With a solid performance, Maverick is ready for his jumbotron close-up. (3/28/15)
Greece Gladiators squad moves up in rank to #40, thanks to a strong performance 
as part of the Red Alliance! (3/28/15)
Back in the staging area, technicians give Maverick a quick check-up (3/28/15)
The safety supervisor (with green badge) insures technician safety while
reviewing strategy in anticipation of the afternoon's festivities. (3/28/15)
The buzz was very positive about the team's performance thus far this year when I left after the second of two qualifying matches. Following what was a challenging 2014 competition (one filled with electrical issues), it was great to see so much of the squad's hard work and energy being rewarded with success in 2015. It continues to be a source of great pride to be involved in the education of the excellent students at our school, and to get out and have the opportunity to learn something about those passions which, though alien to me, inspire them to pursue excellence.

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