MoCo Robo gets ready for big season of robotics competition
Moffat County High School’s robotics team is gearing up for the start of its building and competition season.
In January, the team will receive its annual challenge that their robot must complete at regional competitions. Until then, students are putting together the basics to get ahead of the building rush between the challenge’s announcement and competition. Kristen Nichols, the adviser for the team, said that the seniors on the team this year were freshmen when the club was created, so this is a full-circle moment for them.
“In January, they’ll do the kickoff, and that’s where they will reveal the game for the season, so you have a specific dollar amount and building requirements, and the kids have to build the robot and program it to compete,” Nichols said. “I’m really excited to let the seniors have this final year, and now actually they know what’s going on with the robot.”
Nichols and the team were just two days away from leaving for the 2020 competition in Denver when COVID-19 lockdowns began and canceled the event. Last spring, the robotics team had the option to build and compete remotely by filming their robot completing the tasks. This year, Nichols said, should go as planned during a normal year.
Now that this year’s team has several seniors with years of experience under their belts, Nichols said they feel more prepared when competing against teams from larger, more experienced schools at the regional competition. Now that robotics is offered at the middle school and at the elementary level, Nichols said that they’ll now have more students who have a basic understanding of robotics coming onto the team as freshmen.
Currently, the team is meeting twice each week to start on building the basics, but when the challenge is released, Nichols said that it’s common for them to meet almost every day for five hours per day. The bottom of the robot — called the chassis — is already built, and team members will build upward with whatever they need for the tasks.
Usually, that involves picking up and throwing balls into a basket or a hoop, but they won’t be sure until the kickoff in January. They will have until March to get it completed, and the competition includes building restrictions on the machine’s dimensions.
“In the kickoff, they’ll tell us what the events are that we’re going to have to complete,” senior Neveah Allen said. “Based on that, we can start building how we see fit so that our robot can complete the challenges. Because we’re newer, we are at a slight disadvantage, but thankfully (competition organizers) accommodate for that. So they put spending limits for each team, so we’re not as disadvantaged.”
Amelia Seim, also a senior, was on the team as a freshman during the team’s first year. She said that local mentors — such as engineers from Tri-State and other community members — have helped build the foundation for the team.
“A really big thing for us (freshman year) was trying to get the robot to move,” Seim said. “With the mentors we’ve had, they’ve helped us a lot to understand the basics. Without that, we wouldn’t even be where we are right now.”
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