Skip to main content

Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High hosts state kick-off event for First Robotics Competition

Feb 08, 2017 01:58PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School hosted the season opener event where teams from across the state learned this year’s challenge. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

About 23 teams and representatives from across the state came to Hillcrest High School to watch the unveiling of this year’s challenge for the worldwide FIRST robotics competition.

At the Jan. 7 event, about 250 students joined one another for breakfast before watching a live stream that not only showed the founder and co-founder of FIRST robotics speak, but unveiled this year’s three-part challenge, said senior Mary Evans. 

The challenge is set when technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships.  To prepare for the competition, teams must build steam pressure by having their robots collect fuel (Whiffle Balls) and store it in their boiler. Boilers then turn fuel into steam pressure which is stored in the steam tank on their airship. 

The second part is when the robots deliver plastic gears to pilots on their airship for installation. Once the gear train is complete, they turn the crank to start the rotor. 

The final part is to prepare for flight, meaning the robots must latch on to their airship before launch (the end of the match) by ascending their ropes to signal that they’re ready for takeoff. 

“Before the announcement, there was wild speculation of what the game would be this year,” Mary said.  “After it was announced, all the teams rushed to get their kits to build the robots.  Then a bunch of the teams brainstormed strategies together and watched the mission again to help one another even though we compete against each other.  It’s incredibly helpful to hear others’ perspectives and ideas and learn from one another.” 

As students discussed ideas, the coaches met before each team departed, heading back to their schools for more brainstorming sessions.  The teams will meet Wednesday, March 8 through Saturday, March 11 at the Maverick Center where Utah will host its own region for the first time.

“Hosting it is huge,” senior Cameron Welch said.  “Only one team organizes it and represents FIRST professionally.  We had to have their kits ready to be distributed and were excited to prepare for all the teams and learn about this year’s challenge.”

According to the FIRST website, the robotics competition is “the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology” where high school participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”

Under the rules, there are limited resources in the six weeks where students raise funds for materials they need, design a team brand, work together to build and program their robot to compete in a 52-foot by 27-foot field against other teams, Mary said.

“Our mission is two minutes and 30 seconds and only the 30 seconds can be pre-programmed.  This is the first year, they’re allowing people on the field so that is something new.  Our students are divided into teams and we already have some of our teams looking into how to best do these,” Mary said, two days after the kick-off.  

The team members usually spend up to four hours after school and meet again, all day on Saturday, to work toward the robot and game.  They also have demonstrated the robot at Comic Con, being the first FIRST team to do so, volunteered with the Canyons School District’s FIRST Lego League qualifier and have helped with providing service to Jordan Valley students through creating a device that tracks eye movement for those with limited or no mobility.

Last year’s 50-member team won the “creativity award,” but with only half as many members this year, everyone is involved in several ways, learning different aspects of the robotics game.

 “We know we can adjust our existing robot, but we’re also seeking sponsors as we’d like to have the support of as many businesses in Midvale as possible,” Mary said.

The team also welcomes mentors who have ideas, strategies and materials they can share with Husky Robotics and their robot, Harve (Highly Advanced Robotic Vehicle Extraordinaire).

Mary, who began learning about robotics in sixth grade through FIRST Lego League robotics and picked Hillcrest as her high school since it has a robotics program, said that she now is considering a career in robotics or aerospace and wants to return to Hillcrest next year as a mentor.

“I’ve learned so much from this program.  I’ve learned how to give presentations and to speak publicly; how to create a business plan; how to fundraise; I understand how a robot works and how to put it together; I’ve learned coding, we work as a team and teach one another,” she said. 

Teammate Cameron said that she has learned she’s passionate about business through robotics.

“Husky robotics attracts all different kinds of people some who build, design and program and others who market and fundraise.  I’ve learned a lot from doing the business side of things and the planning, writing and communication.  I’d like to open my own business.  I’ve learned that if I’m passionate about something, I should pursue it,” she said.