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Neobots go to district competition

 

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The local district competition at Glacier Peak High School for FIRST robotics at which Arlington's team competed in on March 24.

The Arlington Neobots robotics team competed at the Glacier Peak Districts this year on March 24.

The team participates in the FIRST robotics competition, which is a nonprofit organization that creates a contest each year meant to test robot-building skills.

This year's contest involved the robots performing a number of challenges that involved picking up cubes, placing them on plates and climbing.

Arlington's team started out slow this year and got better later, but it wasn't enough for them to move beyond districts.

"I like that we did perform well. We didn't get to go on, but we did really well for us," said Charly Waddell, club member and one of the project managers.

"We proved that our robot was a good robot," she said.

After losing the first two matches the team continued on, said Mark Ehrhardt, advisor for the robotics club.

"That took a lot of perseverance and coming back and trying to make it work," he said.

Arlington's robot wasn't the best at any one task, but did above average in many of the tasks.

"There weren't any robots that were as well-rounded," said Waddell.

Although the team had trouble making their robot climb.

"We definitely planned on building a climbable robot at the beginning of the season and that never happened," said Waddell.

"We have all of the mounting materials and everything, we just never got around to putting it on," she said.

Power consumption issues also plagued Arlington's robot this year.

"We had brownout issues at the beginning, which basically means that the robot is drawing too much power and its trying to shut itself down," said Waddell.

"Our first match was pretty awful because of the brownout issues," she said.

The robot had to shift back and forth to make a complete turn because of the power issues, she said.

"I ended up replacing the gearboxes completely during our first competition," said Waddell.

The Arlington robotics team includes about 35 students.

They spend six weeks designing and constructing the robot from scratch.

"That's over 300 hours that they are here," said Ehrhardt, including late nights and weekend days.

The team often has to work around the school's shop schedule so they can use the tools there.

There are numerous departments from the club.

First comes the design team which sets out a blueprint for their ideas.

"We do some design to start out with on kickoff," said Waddell.

The programming team is responsible for "coding a robot from scratch," said Waddell.

"They're doing a lot of guesswork to start out with, and then they have to test it and troubleshoot their way into something that works," she said.

The build team and electrical team are putting together the robot.

"When I first started we had a really sketchy band saw and drills," said Waddell, but now the build team has access to more tools to make better robots.

Electrical work is "a lot of screwdriver work. It's really tedious," said Waddell.

It also involves a lot of soldering. "I had a couple of weekends where I was just soldering all weekend," she said.

Finally there's the public relations team.

"They deal with everything that's not mechanical, like funding," said Waddell.

After the six weeks of work the team actually gets to compete with other schools.

"I got to meet a lot of people," said Waddell.

"I actually got a cold after the competition because I was walking around shaking hands with everyone," she said.

More information about the Arlington Neobots team is available at http://www.neobots2903.org.

 

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