Since Saturday, September 9, the Parker Robotics FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams have been busy designing, building, testing and redesigning their robots to compete in the FIRST Chicago League.
On that Saturday, the robotics organization FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, released the 2017–18 FTC game Relic Recovery, which is loosely based on the “Indiana Jones” movie series. On a 12' x 12' square field, four teams compete to get the most points on two randomly paired alliances in a three-minute game. The main object of the game is to score Glyphs (foam blocks) into the Cryptoboxes (vertical shelves), completing rows, columns and Ciphers (patterns with the blocks). Competitors earn bonus points for transferring Relics (plastic figures) to the Recovery Zone, retrieving Jewels (colored wiffle balls), parking on the Balancing Stones and navigating to specific parts of the Playing Field. If you would like to learn more about the game, you can watch the game video.
Following the release of the game, the team went to work brainstorming and researching robot ideas to apply to our bots this year. Additionally, due to increased student interest this year, Parker students again split into two teams, since FIRST limits FTC teams to 15 students. Another new part of our robotics season this year is a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Router, which we purchased during the summer. Now we can design 2D parts and cut them out using the machine. With this new router, our goal for the season (and for future seasons) is to custom design and make almost all parts of our robots.
We split each season into four timeframes. The first is Kickoff until County Fair. During this time, we create robots for County Fair, our veteran team members train new members, and we continually brainstorm ideas for the challenge. This is a crucial time for us as we are able to ease into robotics by building small, fun robots for younger kids to drive during County Fair. This year for County Fair, we designed and built four basic robots for driving. The design for these robots went through three iterations before we decided on a final design for our robot.
After County Fair we jumped right into designing our two robots for our first competition of the season. The 3507 Robotheosis team, captained by juniors Nathan Satterfield and Levi Sheridan, created a robot that used a giant claw to deliver the blocks into the Cryptoboxes. The 9410 Franks Garage team, captained by sophomore Elijah Underhill-Miller, created a robot that used a wheel intake to pull in blocks and then push them back out to score in the Cryptoboxes. Both teams also used color light sensors to autonomously select which color Jewel to remove from a platform to score bonus points.
After the initial tournament, both teams went back to the drawing board to redesign their respective robots for our next tournament based on the strategies that worked and those needing refinement. Our second tournament was on December 9 at Parker. We were the tournament host, and every team member helped make the event run smoothly. We also had numerous Parker faculty and staff members volunteering. For this second tournament, both teams entered with newly redesigned robots. Both teams were trying to increase efficiency and speed with their new robot designs in their Glyph movement from the field to the Cyrptoboxes.
So far this season has been quite successful. The robotics teams are learning many new skills, and both teams are creating custom robots and parts! Our students are also learning through volunteering at other robotics events and mentoring other current and prospective teams from the Chicago area. Our next competition is on January 27 at St. Patrick’s High School. You can also follow along with our season by checking out Francis W. Parker School’s robotics website at fwparkerrobotics.org or fwparker.org/robotics. Also, for weekly updates on the robot, follow us on twitter @3507robotheosis.