Pine View’s FIRST Robotics Club recently built a complex 4-foot, 20-pound robot that can perform a multitude of activities to win competitions. The team worked tirelessly over the course of six weeks to complete this project for Orlando Regional and South Florida Regional competitions in March.
“The robot has several functions. It has to pick up a kickball from the ground and place it into rockets, it has to pick up flat disks from the ground and place them onto the wall with Velcro, and then at the end of thematch it has to wind itself up into over 180 degrees onto a 19-inch-tall platform,” twelfth-grader Lucas Giffard, the team captain, said. The team even gave their robot a name, Mantis, because of the resemblance to a preying mantis when it folds up.
During the past weeks, the team has stayed after school and worked on the weekends to build the machine. The first five weeks were spent building the robots mechanically, while the final week was focused on programming the robot. Participants of the building stayed from one to eight after school everyday for the six weeks, and they brought their parts to the FAB Lab on the weekends. On Saturday, they spent from one to eight pm working on their creation and 12 to five on Sunday. On the final night of construction, February 19, the team stayed on campus until eleven at night.
The team is funded by sponsors such as the PVA and Sun Hydroulics. Since registration for competition is $5,000, along with the cost to build the robot, fundraisers such as the Pine View Fair do not bring in the money needed to support the club. They get their parts from AndyMark Inc. or from Amazon.com. Including competitions and parts for the robot, the cost of the season ranges from $25,000 to $30,000.
The team displayed Mantis March 14-16 for the Orlando Regional competition at the UCF Arena in Orlando, Florida and March 28-30 for the South Florida Regional Competition in West Palm Beach, Florida. In both competitions, 64 teams were in attendance, and out of those, the Pine View FIRST Robotics team placed about 20th.
In a typical competition, the first part consists of qualifiers. Teams complete tasks for points as well as win matches. If the teams accumulate enough points, they are eligible to be chosen for tournaments. Alliances are formed between three teams because tournaments require not one but three robots pinned against each other.
When they aren’t building their robot, the team participate in outreach programs to teach children around the community about STEM, as well as train new members and teach them the ins and outs of robotics.
“When a friend and I were programming a judge came by and invited us to an international Artificial Intelligence conference that’s happening this May,” sophomore Gatlen Culp, next year’s co-captain along with eleventh-grader Claire Wang, said, “There’s a lot of different people that you meet, a lot of opportunities that you are exposed to, and different scholarships that come with the FIRST Robotics program.”
Starting next school year, the team meets Thursdays from 1-2 in Drew Wormington’s room.