The Black & White

Robotics team prepares for FIRST competition

Members+of+the+Body+Electric+meet+and+plan+their+robot+for+the+FIRST+competition+in+March.+With+a+large+group+of+freshmen+this+year%2C+the+team+now+has+many+new+members+to+help+across+their+mechanical%2C+electrical+and+programming+sub-teams.+Photo+by+Naren+Roy.+
Members of the Body Electric meet and plan their robot for the FIRST competition in March. With a large group of freshmen this year, the team now has many new members to help across their mechanical, electrical and programming sub-teams. Photo by Naren Roy.

Members of the Body Electric meet and plan their robot for the FIRST competition in March. With a large group of freshmen this year, the team now has many new members to help across their mechanical, electrical and programming sub-teams. Photo by Naren Roy.

Members of the Body Electric meet and plan their robot for the FIRST competition in March. With a large group of freshmen this year, the team now has many new members to help across their mechanical, electrical and programming sub-teams. Photo by Naren Roy.

By Naren Roy

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Whitman’s robotics team, The Body Electric, started off their season Jan. 6 at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology kickoff, in Columbia, Maryland, where teams gather annually to view a video regarding the game concept. More than 30 Whitman team members attended. The team is now well into its six-week building season that ends mid-February. Following the build season, the team will attend district competitions in March.

In this year’s game, PowerUp, the arena simulates an arcade game that robots are trying to escape. Human operators direct their robots to move crate-like power cubes onto mechanical scales and into goals to receive powerups and, ultimately face a climbing task with a pull-up bar to reach the “boss level.”

“The competition’s completely different,” team co-leader Raffi Metz said. “Last year was shooting balls and placing gears on pegs and climbing the rope so there’s no same things here.”

The only similarities to past years are the structuring of the match—which begins with a 15 second autonomous period, followed by team members manning the robot for the remainder of the match—and length of the six weeks building season followed by a six-week season of district competitions.

During the two and one half minute match, the robot relies on the work the mechanical, programming and electrical teams completed throughout the build season.

“Without any one of these subteams, we wouldn’t function,” team co-leader Saskia van Rossum said. “Everyone is essential, and that’s how the team’s organized. You have to work together with people who you wouldn’t necessarily work with otherwise.”

The team aims high because they participated in the world championship two seasons ago and were a mere two points away from that cutoff last year, Metz added.

This year, the team has focused on making a few holistic changes, especially regarding time management during the season and team dynamics, van Rossum said.

“There is more meeting together—this is our compromise to make sure that people keep their grades up while they’re doing this,” van Rossum said. “I think also we’re focusing on how people interact with each other.”

During this new season, team members will also work with many new teammates towards their tournament goals.

“We had a lot of seniors leave and a lot of freshmen come in, so our sophomore and our freshman year are really big,” van Rossum said. “It’s great that younger people can get experiences because there’s not older people to fill the places.”

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