Whitman hosts FRC district competition, robotics team places 12th

FIRST referees inspect a robot for damage after the end of a match.

By Jacob Cowan

Thirty-six high school robotics teams filled Whitman’s main gym to compete in a FIRST district competition this weekend. Whitman’s robotics team, The Body Electric, placed 12th and won an award for their sustainable robot design and team management. 

Teams operated their robots on the basketball court, which contained a large, enclosed pit for the robots to move. Spectators filled the bleachers, each cheering on their alliances.

“Hosting this event was a huge team effort,” said Awards Lead Karthik Kumar, who explained Whitman’s robot design to the FIRST judges. “We had team members here until 10:30 pm on Friday setting up the entire field and setting up the concessions stand. It’s great for our team and our brand.”

This year’s competition theme is “Charged Up,” in which teams use their robots to deposit cargo and dock on “charging stations” to simulate providing energy to a power grid. Teams had six weeks to build a robot from scratch for competition season, which began earlier this month.

On Saturday and Sunday, two alliances — each comprising three teams that rotate after each match — competed to earn points by depositing cubes and cones into nodes, or scoring areas, with their robots. After 15 seconds of relying on pre-programmed instructions, teams manually operated their robots to traverse the pit and deposit additional cargo into the nodes. Teams could also earn points by docking the robots on a charging station that shifted up and down, like a seesaw.

The Body Electric considered multiple prototypes before finalizing the design and building their robot, which they named Corbin. Team members added maneuverability features for this year’s “Charged Up” competition to give Corbin an advantage in the pit.

“This year we have something called ‘April Tags,’ which lets us scan a QR code and immediately know our position anywhere on the field,” said Scouting Lead and Mechanical Sub-Team member Alex Akpinar, a junior. “We can also rotate while driving, so we’re very very mobile.”

Additionally, the team improved Corbin’s versatility by giving it a triple-jointed arm, which allows it to earn more points by depositing objects at higher nodes, Akpinar said.

This weekend’s competition was also a fundraiser for Whitman’s robotics team, which sold concessions with the assistance of more than 50 parent volunteers, according to team parent Paul Ohm, who said he had “a great time.”

Despite equipping Corbin with new features and having the “home-pit” advantage, The Body Electric lost in the second elimination round due to technical difficulties.

“We’re not really sure what happened but our robot just stopped moving,” said Awards Sub-Team member Tim Lindstrom, a junior. “It’s definitely tough, but next week in Alexandria, we want to fix those issues and we want to bring it back.”


The Body Electric will compete in the third “Charged Up” district tournament on March 17-19 at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia.