Coon Rapids High School’s first-year robotics team competed against teams from around the world in Detroit last week.
The “C.A.R.D.S.” made it to the FIRST robotics world championship April 24-27 after placing 19th out of 63 teams in the Minnesota regional competition. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit founded to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.
Because the top-ranked rookie team wins a spot at the world competition, Coon Rapids’ first-year team had a chance to see what it takes to design and build robots that compete on a world stage.
This year’s challenge “Destination: Deep Space” was a simulation of loading cargo ships and rockets in space. In each match, an alliance of two teams worked to load orange balls and attach yellow discs simulating cargo hatches onto two model rockets and a model cargo ship to score points.
Because the vision of the players was obscured by a simulated sandstorm, the first 15 seconds of each match required robots to be either fully automated or to use a mounted camera.
C.A.R.D.S. members were surprised at the ingenuity some of the world-class teams showed on their robots and in helping out the CRHS team when disaster struck.
At one point during the competition, the programming for the team’s robot was completely lost, said Grace Zimmerman, one of two team captains. Luckily the team Aluminum Falcons was kind enough to help out.
“They came over, and they helped us out a lot, and they built us an entirely new program in less than two days,” said Zimmerman, a sophomore.
Teams had six weeks to design and build their robots – a time frame made shorter when the Coon Rapids team lost about a week of work when schools around the state closed during an extreme bout of cold weather.
For the competition, each team received a kit and could buy from a list of approved vendors, without exceeding a total cost of $5,500.
Next year Zimmerman hopes to change up the team structure, starting with off-season meetings, elected team leads and better-defined teams, such as programming or public relations.
Advisor Scott Storrick, who teaches some classes in the school’s two-year-old engineering program, was asked by students last year to start a FIRST robotics program. He decided to wait a year to recruit more students for the team.
The team worked together to track donations, sponsors and funding for their robotic equipment.
“We simulated a small business environment in our robotics team,” Storrick said.
The team ranked 63rd out of 68 in Detroit, but making it to the world competition is a strong start for the new club.