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The robotics team goes up against other teams from across the globe.

Liz Gammon

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Photo by Chrystian Noble

Every tweak, every bolt, every programmed instruction, all of it is perfectly planned out to result in victory. About 50 teams from around the world, including Mexico, Canada, China and LHS’s very own, competed in two robotics tournaments throughout the month of March. The first competition was in Little Rock, Arkansas and the second was right here in Kansas City. The teams competed in a challenge called Power Up and gave a chairman presentation at the Metropolitan Community College to get the community more interested in STEM and robotics. Before any competition or event, the team was given six weeks to brainstorm and build the robot. The robot this year has aluminum parts, all sorts of wires and went by the name, Holloway, which was dedicated to a mechanical mentor who recently passed away.

The first day is merely practice and the days following was when the real competition began. The way the competitions run is the first day are practice matches, robot inspection and field calibration. The second day is qualifications and the third day is alliance selection, elimination matches and then the awards ceremony.

“The teams start out by having the opportunity to fine tune their robot and kind of get used to how the game is going to play out,” senior George Meyer said. “The following day we start qualification matches where different teams watch each other to see how everyone functions as a team and what different strategies different teams might use. Then there is alliance selection where the top eight ranked teams pick two other teams to play the game with them and then it’s playoffs time.”

The teams were all fired up and ready to see their hard work pay off. This year’s game was called Power Up. The premise of the game seems simple, but ends up exponentially more difficult because a robot has to complete all of the tasks mostly on its own.

“The robot collects things called power cubes, similar to milk crates and puts them onto scales to try to balance them into our favor,” senior Sarah Decker said. “At the end we have the opportunity to climb the biggest obstacle which is about 7 feet and scaling it successfully is kind of like beating the boss of the game.”

Along with a difficult premise, there are different levels of said game.

“There are two phases of the game,” senior Max Dowling said. “The first one is called the autonomous period where the robot does everything by itself, which is primarily what I work on, doing automated systems. The second phase is called teleop, short for teleoperation, which is where the driver is controlling the robot and in that phase I work as the copilot.”

In the teleop phase two people drove the robot, one steering and one controlling other aspects of the robot.

“We also have a mentor who helps coach the drivers,” junior Amy Laws said. “and a human player who can manipulate the part of this year’s game that happens off the field.”

Each aspect of the team is unique and crucial to the integrity of the robot. From programmers to managers to mechanics, all of these different skilled students work together to accomplish a common goal.

“I’m the primary programmer on the team,” Dowling said. “What I do is use premade libraries and a lot of math to figure out different control methods for various parts of the robot. For example, following a path for a robot on a differential drag train moving some sort of actuator or motor to a specific position, stuff like that. Figuring out how to best improve operator control where you move it with joysticks.”

Team members constantly support each other, on or off duty.

“This year I was mostly in the pits fixing the robot when it broke. For example, a pneumatic piston got damaged during the first match in the Kansas City competition. Also, when our team was up to play the rest of the team members were in the stands cheering the team on,” Meyer said.

There are other crucial jobs that don’t directly work with the robot itself.

“I am one of the chief officers that lead the team,” Decker said. “I’m the chief financial officer and I deal with the budget and talking to sponsors. For the competition, we’re required to document every piece that is put on the robot and we have to be below four grand. If you are exceeding that limit you have to take it off and try to get the price down. I’m in charge in making sure we don’t exceed that limit.”

Every job is important and the team would fail without each and every strong minded member. LHS’s team worked very hard for many months to help make their victories obtainable/even fathomable. The team placed 14th overall and seventh in their ally team in the first competition. In the second competition they placed 12th overall and were alliance captains in the quarter final alliance selections. They won their first quarterfinal match ever in Kansas City and they got a Judges award given because of the team’s plan to split the team up between Liberty and Liberty North.

“This is the best our team has performed in a long, long time,” Dowling said.

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