The first major winter storm couldn’t extinguish the enthusiasm at the Huntington Robotics’ competitive season kickoff last Saturday, as team members gathered in the high school auditorium to learn about the challenge the group is taking on.
The start of the design and build season coincided with the unveiling of this year’s robotics game. The official kickoff was held at Southern New Hampshire University and simulcast to 83,400 high school students on 3,336 teams at 123 venues across the world.
Huntington Robotics faculty advisors Brian Reynolds and Omar Santiago were joined by team leaders and members, parents and sponsors, who munched on bagels and donuts before learning about this year’s game. A large screen was mounted on the auditorium stage and team members watched as details about the FIRST Steamworks game were announced.
Huntington Robotics is led by Jacob Strieb (team captain), Matthew Wildermuth (vice-captain), John Riley (chief technology officer), Will Hebert (treasurer), Lindsay Saginaw (head of marketing and public relations), David Mosden (secretary), Ty Williams (head programmer), Luke Eidle (head of electrical), Sam Prinzi (head of mechanical), Isabella McGinniss (head of promotions), Tim Low (head of statistical strategy), Gabby Grenier (head of computer aided design) and Abigail Holmes (safety captain).
“Despite the weather, the kickoff was still very successful,” Mr. Strieb said. “We had a surprisingly strong turnout from parents, students, and community members, and the event ended up being quite productive. The team has a handle on the game and we’re feeling prepared to move forward as the build season commences. Steamworks is an exciting game with several new aspects that have never before been tried in a FIRST robotics challenge. Having players on the field, right in the center of the action, is going to be interesting. I look forward to a productive build season and I’m excited to host many guests, including Dr. Ina Gellerman and County Legislator William Spencer when they visit to see how we’re progressing.”
Huntington Robotics picked up its “kit of parts” for this year’s game at Stony Brook University. It contains motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials and a variety of automation components. Limited instructions were also provided. Robotics teams are expected to work with adult mentors over the next six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots. Teams then enter one or more of 145 regional and district events spread across the country. The top teams advance to the national championships.
Once the Huntington Robotics team and its mentors finished watching the kickoff broadcast on Saturday it quickly mobilized. The new statistical strategy unit headed by Mr. Low got to work printing out game manuals and making brainstorming worksheets.
The auditorium kickoff included a set of remarkably articulate speakers addressing the crowd. Ms. Holmes spoke about her experience with robotics while Huntington Class of 2015 grad and former team vice-captain Tom Kouttron described how his background in robotics currently influences his education at Worchester Polytechnic Institute. Former vice-captain and 2016 alum Cole Blackburn was also in attendance.
Messrs. Strieb and Wildermuth and Ms. Saginaw all spoke about the team’s history and background and its community outreach before an overview of the FIRST Steamworks game was played twice for the audience.
Steamworks is a cooperation-based challenge in which robots must throw “fuel,” consisting of whiffle ball-like spheres into boilers on each side of the playing field. The more steam is added, the greater the water pressure is, the more points are added to each alliance (three teams on an alliance). Teams may also place gears into the center “airship” for more points. Two human players are in each airship, who may place gears on the ship and turn the rotors for more points. At the beginning of each match there is a 15-second autonomous period, and at the end, the robots may scale a rope up to the airship for 50 points.
Following the kickoff video, group leaders met with small groups of people to brainstorm and answer questions such as “how can teams work together to gain more points?” and “how can the robot be used to play defense?” At about 1 p.m. the crowd began filtering out of the auditorium to head home, but the work was just beginning for the leadership team.
Unfortunately, because of the snow, team members couldn’t stay at the school, but group leaders video-conferenced for the next four hours to brainstorm strategies.
“This year’s challenge will definitely be difficult, but we are up for it,” Ms. Saginaw said. “We are excited for a very eventful six weeks ahead of us, with the support of our dedicated mentors, advisors, parent’s association and sponsors behind us. Though the marketing team has already had several successful sponsor presentations in which new members were able to present, we are just getting started.”
Team members were in the wood shop immediately after school on Monday, beginning the process of building this year’s robot. The teenagers stayed late into the evening, thrilled that the challenge is finally underway.