Robotics competes in FIRST, their last competition of the year

March 20, 2009 — by Kevin Mu

Capping off a tumultuous building season delayed by a shortage of funds, the Robotics team finished 31st out of 48 teams at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) regional competition held from March 12 to 14 at the San Jose State Spartan Stadium.

Going in, the team did not feel very confident about their robot, and it showed in their performance. “I don’t think we did as well as we expected or hoped,” said club junior vice president Kandice Wong.

Club president junior Erika Ye said the team made some errors while building and designing the robot.

“There were a lot of things we could have done differently during the build season,” Ye said. “We should have tested our design more.”
As for the competition, robots were put into teams of three and faced off against opponents in a wild, action-packed game called “Lunacy.”

“It’s like a game of basketball, except the hoops are moving,” said Ye.

Technological difficulties also hindered the team during the contest.

“Our ‘shooter’ component malfunctioned on the first day, so we couldn’t do what we wanted with our robot,” said Wong. “We needed to make sure all of our parts worked.”

During the match, a trailer was attached to the back of each robot. The goal of the game was to score points by shooting or dumping as many balls into the opponents’ trailers as possible. In addition, the robots’ wheels and the flooring were low-friction in order to simulate driving in a low-gravity environment, causing the robots to slide and making them harder to control.

Because of the exciting nature of this year’s game, many Robotics club members thoroughly enjoyed the competition despite the results.
“It was fun because it was so chaotic, “ sophomore David Zeng said. “The concept was really different from previous years.”

Bellarmine, Gunn, and Monte Vista High School were among the eight teams who advanced to the finals during the tournament, but the winner of the FIRST regional competition was Mountain View High. The FIRST Championship will not take place until April 16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The FIRST Competition will also be the last for the robotics team this year, which lacks the funds to take part in any more events. According to Ye, participating in another regional would cost more than $1,000.

Because the team was unable to find sponsors, Robotics has been struggling through financial issues. They are currently reapplying for a sponsorship with Festo, Bosch, Silicon Light Machines and Automation Controls. “There are lots of regionals out there,” said Ye, “but we just don’t have enough money [to compete].”