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Tackling robotics 'Bot by Bot'

Robomos place 14th of 40 in FIRST competition

March 9, 2011
By Dionna Harris

ESCANABA - Using adversity as a learning curve, the Escanaba Area High School Robomos are looking forward to their next robotics competition in downstate Livonia.

The Robomos recently participated in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) competition, completing the two-day event in 14th place out of a total of 40 teams participating.

The competition was held in Traverse City.

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"There are no words available to describe the experience," said Simon Rose a member of the Robomos team.

The Robomos - working with coach and Escanaba High School science Teacher Marie Young and engineers from EMP and U.P. Engineering - worked to design, construct and program a robot for the competition.

"We also had financial help from JC Penney Corp. through grant funding for the FIRST program," said Young.

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Members of Escanaba High School’s Robomos team demonstrated their robot at a basketball game Feb. 22 during halftime of a game against Gwinn. The Robomos competed in Traverse City last week and now advance to Livonia. (Daily Press photo by Dennis Grall)

She said when the team arrived in Traverse City, they were unable to compete in the first three rounds of competition, due to an inability to get through the inspection process.

"We learned quite a bit going through the inspection process as there were a quite a few rules we were unaware of," said Young. "In some cases, the rules were posted on the Internet, which we were also unaware of."

Young said the Robomos team appeared to come under scrutiny when they placed in the top 10 (sixth), after missing the first three rounds.

"When we realized after the first day we were in sixth place we were very happy," said James Davis, a member of the Robomos team.

The second day of competition in Traverse City was no less exciting and frustrating for the team, as they worked to overcome malfunctions related to steering their robot.

According to Davis and his fellow teammates, the wheels used on their robot were unable to turn on the carpet placed in the competition area. Due to this problem, the team went through two rounds without being able to steer the robot.

One method the team used to correct the problem was the use of masking tape wrapped around the wheels.

"A comment was made from an official saying we could not wrap the wheels in masking tape. We looked for another solution," said Davis. "While we were able to find another solution, for the next competition we are looking at changing out the wheels for another style."

After finding a method to resolve the issue of turning, the team once again entered the competition arena. Missing the two rounds, however, caused the team to drop from sixth place to 14th place.

During the competition, Young commended team members who pulled together, working to solve problems.

"These kids really pulled together. There were no negative comments. If someone had an idea on how to make a repair, they looked at it and as a group decided what method they would use to make the repairs," said Young.

While the team is unable to make any alterations to their robot until one week before the next competition, they are working diligently on design plans and determining what changes need to be made.

"These students have every reason to be proud of their performance in Traverse City," said Young.

"This is the first year Escanaba has competed in FIRST, and we were up against some schools (teams) that had been competing for the past 17 years or more."

The Robomos are looking forward to heading to Livonia for the next competition, and earning a rookie award for their efforts.

"Once we compete and earn the rookie award, the next step for us will be the state competition," said the Robomos in unison.



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