Robotics builds on previous season’s strengths

January 29, 2015 — by Michelle Leung and Nupur Maheshwari

Day One of the M-SET build season began on Jan. 3, when this year’s challenge was revealed to teams all over the country

Day One of the M-SET build season began on Jan. 3, when this year’s challenge was revealed to teams all over the country: Build a robot that can stack totes, or little boxes, and recycling bins on top of one another for varying points.

The major changes in the competition this year are a lack of size limit for the robot and no interaction between the two alliances that play against each other. Usually, challenges involve interactive activities like shooting baskets or tossing discs.

Six weeks of the M-SET “build season” will be followed by six weeks of competitions. This year, the Saratoga M-SET team, No. 649, plans to attend two competitions, one at San Jose State and one at Central Valley.

The competitions are round-robin style, with around 50 teams competing in each. The highest-seeded teams make it to elimination playoffs, and the overall winner makes it to the world championships. Their first competition is March 5.

M-SET is about halfway through its build season. The process of building a robot follows a formula: Week 1 is for brainstorming, Week 2 for choosing designs and making a complete computer model of the robot, Week 3 for creating the various parts of the robot and Week 4 for running the code successfully and assembling the robot using materials like wood and aluminum.

Junior Elizabeth Li, who is working as head of electronics for the team, said that the challenge this year is less dramatic than last year’s, because “last year there were things flying around and things were shooting at each other and it was exciting.”

Li most enjoys the unexpected element of the design portion of building the robot.

“There’s a bunch of different things that you can do, and then sometimes the really ridiculous ideas are the ones that work best,” Li said. “And it’s kind of fun to test out different designs and be like ‘Hey, maybe that one will work — you think that one will work really well and you try it but then it fails.’”

M-SET is divided into seven sections— hardware, software, electrical, safety, marketing, administration and outreach — each led by a different leader. The president, junior Naveed Riaziat, oversees the sections.

Administrative and safety officer sophomore Samay Garg describes the M-SET team as tight-knit — mostly because of the 40-hour weeks they have sometimes spent together working on the robot.

“It's a pretty small group — there’s only like 15 of us active in the club,” Garg said, “and we’re pretty close to each other so we all know each other really well and for the most part we get along really well.”

Despite losing a few experienced members to graduation, M-SET hopes to go further in competition than last year. Last year’s M-SET team lost in the semifinal round to the team that went on to win the championships — not a shameful defeat. Garg expects an even better result this year.

“I think we have a pretty good chance of doing well this year at least as well as we did last year,” Garg said. “We’re hoping to make semifinals at both of your competitions and they're two of the most competitive competitions in the world so we’re hoping to do really well this year.”

According to Garg, the M-SET team’s biggest rival is Bellarmine, No. 254, which has a major advantage because it has a sponsorship from NASA and work in a space shuttle hangar.

Saratoga has sponsors as well, including Festo, Intuitive Surgical and Sandisk.

“While we may lack experience, the amount of enthusiasm and dedication the team has is just beyond belief,” Riaziat said, “and even if you don’t have a certain amount of skill, just spending that amount of time in the room and that much passion for robotics basically guarantees that you’ll do something good.”