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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High’s First Tech Challenge robotics team advanced to state semifinals

Jun 01, 2021 10:57AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It took the Canyons Board of Education to grant Hillcrest High FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team permission to travel to Cedar City to the April 10 state competition’s Ultimate Goal during COVID-19, and the Huskies are glad it was approved.

Their team, nicknamed Toaster Medics, was chosen from 20 teams at state to be part of the end games, competing in the semifinals with an alliance of two other teams. 

The team also won the Collins Aerospace Innovate Award for “bringing great ideas from concept to reality by celebrating a team that thinks outside the box and has ingenuity, creativity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life.”

After qualifying for state at an earlier tournament, the Toaster Medics competed in preliminary rounds. Based on their performance, the Toaster Medics were selected for an alliance. 

The Huskies and their partners’ robots faced their opponents for the best two out of three matches, where the winner advanced each round. The two teams on each side had their robots ready in the 12-foot by 12-foot playing surface; the four robots were ready to battle to see which alliance could get the most points.

The robots began with 30-second autonomous period where teams had preprogrammed or used sensors to have their robots move a wobbly goal to a certain place on the playing field or launch rings into goals stacked at different heights to earn points. They also could gain points for each power shot that was knocked down from the launching zone.

Then, the teams’ two drivers picked up their controls for a two-minute period where, again, they battled for points by getting rings in the goals. At the end, they could also put rings on the wobbly goals and move those goals over the edge of the field for points.

Sophomore Konrads Lubavs is one of a dozen members on the semifinalist team; Hillcrest’s overall robotics program has upward of 30 or more students. 

“We went through a lot of CAD designs and printed 3D pieces to piece the robot together,” Lubavs said. “What’s unique is that we had a third-wheel drivetrain. We used prototypes of our shooter and machinery.”

He said that his teacher and robotics adviser, Clief Castleton, taught several teammates CAD and had help from mentors as well.

“A lot of it was trial and error,” he said, adding that the team changed the coding several times to ensure the robot, nicknamed “The Headbanger,” drove straight. “We improved it all along, between every tournament. We gave it a wobbly goal arm and a skirt. Our drivetrain originally was damaged and we improved our shooting. It’s a lot more involved than the last time.”

Lubavs became involved after his older sister had a good experience in robotics. He then took a robotics class last year and at one point, the class divided to compete against one other, and he was hooked.

“I like building and improvising on designs to see if it will work,” Lubavs said, adding that he helped build the arm and drivetrain.

Toaster Medics is one of two teams and the newer one at Hillcrest beginning in the 2018 season. The team was named as an antonym of the other school team, which is nicknamed Die Toaster Die, inspired by the TV show, “Big Bang Theory,” he said.

Junior AJ Healy oversaw the “Jank Tank” on the Die Toaster Die team, who supported the other FTC team at state.

“We’ve had a lot of issues during our competitions,” he said. “First, our controller broke so we borrowed one. But it wasn’t updated so that configuration screwed it up. We got it up and running, but then our red hub or ‘brain’ wasn’t working. We got that fixed. Then, our drivetrain was too tight, so we fixed that and fixed our code.”

Earlier in the season, after the West High competition, about 10 members of the team spent 30 hours fixing the chassis.

“It’s been a lot, but we’re able to problem solve and there’s a lot of trial and error,” Healy said. “We’re learning about mechanical engineering, mechanical manufacturing, business and marketing, and being in leadership roles.”

He became involved after his brother took a robotics class from Castleton.

“I thought, ‘This looks like fun,’” Healy recalled. “There are great people on the teams. We use our hands and build robots with our own ideas and if we need help, there’s someone to ask. We all help one another from bouncing ideas off each other to using the same tools. It’s a great group to hang out with and chill, but it’s fun when we solve problems and make things work.”