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Holladay Journal

Robots to the rescue

Dec 02, 2022 12:16PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

On Dec. 10, about 100 high school students from across the Salt Lake Valley will compete with their schools in the Robot Bucket Brigade, hosted by Academy of Math, Engineering and Science and Cottonwood High robotics teams.

“We can never know what the new official FRC (FIRST robotics competition) game will be, so instead we look at the previous game,” said Douglas Hendricks, AMES robotics coach and physics and engineering teacher. “We design our informal December game so that teams can fairly easily repurpose their robot from the previous FRC game to fit a slightly different set of circumstances. However, we always include a new element too.”

The concept of this year is that a wildfire is raging, and robots are needed to help extinguish it. Pretending the balls are water, the robots can shoot balls directly at the fire or they can place buckets into a cargo bay that represent loads of fire retardant that will later be dispersed. Since fire retardant is a more effective fire suppressant than water is, placing a bucket on a peg will earn more points than will shooting balls at the ball targets, Hendricks said.

The rules are simplified as well so rookie teams can participate with “a very simple robot that can do nothing more than drive around (without shooting or lifting anything) can still earn at least a few points,” he said.

At the same time, students learn the same skills they will need during the season, which kicks off in January. That includes mechanical design, mechanical fabrication, electrical design, electrical assembly, software development, and strategizing the best way to put it all together, with consideration of “the constraints they face and given the various ways points can be earned,” he said.

The preseason game not only prioritizes students commitment to their own team, it helps form and solidify bonds between teams in the sense of FIRST’s “coopertition”—a cooperative competition between teams.

“There's much more sharing of information and ideas now than there had been before we started doing these preseason competitions,” Hendricks said.