The online student news source of Lovejoy High School

The Red Ledger

The online student news source of Lovejoy High School

The Red Ledger

The online student news source of Lovejoy High School

The Red Ledger

Robotics Looks To Build On Success

The inside scoop over the robotics team
Robotics+Looks+To+Build+On+Success
Zahara Abedin

The Lovejoy Robotics department is putting the best possible efforts and achieving ambitions. As it is already, teams are currently heading to another competition on December 16th. However, this isn’t the first competition that has happened in robotics. Some competitions have happened locally, like the annual “For the Love of Bots”  that takes place in Lovejoy High School, which occurs at the beginning and closer to the end of the year. Others consisted of traveling into another state. One thing for sure is that Lovejoy Robotics is setting milestones.

 

People

With a thriving team comes outstanding leaders. In Lovejoy Robotics, the coaches, parents, and students are what make this atmosphere great.

Coach Strickland is the robotics teacher and the coach of robotics. He is a part of the management of teams on Lovejoy Robotics. While also attending tournaments, he creates the teams yearly and decides the levels and letters. He is dedicated, has a passion for robotics in all, and strives to make sure Lovejoy Robotics itself grows as a whole and continues to grow despite limitations. “I teach every robotics and manufacturing courses, and I am the leader of the competitive robotics program,” he explains. He also mentions:

“I think it is a life changing opportunity to try new things and work as a team.”

Mr. Schnurr is a parent volunteer and helps the Lovejoy Robotics in a few different roles: Head Referee, Team and Coach Mentor, and a Game Advisor to the Robotics Booster Club. In the position of Head Referee, he is responsible as the Head Ref for each of the annual Lovejoy Robotics Tournaments, including the ones with travel during the season. Currently in the season, Mr. Schnurr will be refereeing 14 out of the 16 competitions the Lovejoy program attends, with the inclusion of their Regional Championship.

In the mentor position, most of his time is spent in the Robotics Lab after school for consistent updates and progress on teams, answering questions, and “raising up things that the team may not have considered and otherwise trying to help our teams grow to reach their full potential” as mentioned by the Mentor. However, his main priority focuses on specifically the build of the robot (in addition to match or skills strategy and furthering answering questions about the rules). He also provides the statistical information about our teams to Coach Wolf and Coach Strickland. In the position of Game Advisor to the Booster Club, he composed an informative session to educate the robotic parents on VRC competitions and the current season’s game, as well as helped to organize and put on the tournaments that are hosted, and acts as an advisor to other topics the booster club may need  input on, more specifically in the technical or VEX/RECF related points. Furthermore, he states

“I love the hands-on, practical experience that VRC robotics gives to students through the iterative engineering design process.  It’s amazing to watch a student attend their first tournament and see the competitive spark that is lit as they see all of the other robots facing off in matches with a chance to win in the elimination rounds and take home the Tournament Champion award.  Being an engineer and working in Telecommunications, I see how the experience students gain while competing in VRC will help them in a future STEM related job.  This is why I have chosen to volunteer so much of my time for Lovejoy Robotics.”

Mrs. Forte’ is a parent and the President of the Robotics Booster Club. The booster club supports the program and assists in financial, volunteer, and logistic needs of Lovejoy Robotics. Her position is commonly meeting with Coach Strickland once a week to discuss important matters, set up the social events that take place in Lovejoy Robotics (for instance, the recent Christmas party), as well as manage the financial department. Additionally, she supervises the lab when students are working on important projects for robotics. Mrs. Forte’ states:

“I have the privilege of supporting the coach and the robotics students in their efforts to pursue excellence in robotics.”

 However, we also can’t forget the hard work these students and parents provide to the program. Lovejoy Robotics greatly appreciates everyone who helps and volunteers, as without them, they would not be as successful as they are today.

 

The VEX Program

Before going into detail, Lovejoy Robotics specifically falls under the category of VEX Robotics. VEX Robotics is a robotics program intended for students to be involved in the engineering world and learn, in addition to also gaining skills on how to work as a team through obstacles. The program is broad, consisting of participants of 1.1 million students. As VEX states on their platform, their mission is “to provide every educator with competition, education, and workforce readiness programs to increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering, math, and computer science.”

 

Different Sections

Though not a norm in robotics till this year, Lovejoy Robotics teams are divided into different tiers. Originally, it was only divided by Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity levels. These tiers are now EIT (Engineers In Training), JV Red, JV Black, and Varsity. I asked Coach Strickland on why he chose to change the division levels this year.

“I do that, as a way to let the teams know the overall time commitment (and) experience. JV Red and Black are younger teams…I (choose) that structure so we have a set standard to let students know there’s a pathway to grow as they go throughout highschool. When organizing teams, it’s a very thought out process.”

EIT Teams are: 1082N, 1082D

JV Red Teams are: 1082G, 1082H

JV Black Teams are: 1082S, 1082F, 1082T

Varsity Team are: 1082R, 1082J, 1082E, 1082X, 1082M

 

Roles in Robotics

In robotics, there are different roles each student can hold. The main roles that are the strong foundation of a standard robotics team are builders, programmers, and notebookers. Sometimes, a student on a team can pursue more than one role. 

The builders on the team handle, as stated in their title, building the robot: 

“I am a builder, designer, and a back up/skills driver. We have a team meeting about the robot itself. Once the design is final we have a cadder (3D designer), and once that’s completed, the builders take over the robot. Without a builder, you don’t have a robot at all, and without a driver you won’t do well in competition,” as spoken by Dylan Shields, a senior on 1082X (Varsity).

“On the team, I’m the lead CAD designer and builder. Designer is thinking out how the robot will function, and CAD is modeling the bot in a digital, 3D environment. As the lead builder (and designer), I tell others what to work on regarding the bot, giving them designs to help, and work on pre-subsystems. These couple roles are responsible for the robot getting conceived and built,” as said from Owen O’Dowd, a freshman, who is on team 1082G (Junior Varsity Red).

The programmer’s input code and program the robot to follow the functions of moving coherently with the controller:

“On my team, I am the main driver and the lead programmer. I wrote all of my bots code. From the drive base code down to the autonomous functions during the game, I have written all of them from scratch. Without my code, the bot wouldn’t be able to move, and it would be entirely useless. As the driver, I am the person who controls the bot during head to head matches and during skills runs,” as stated by Spencer Bemis on 1082S (Junior Varsity Black).

The notebookers document the components of building, programming, team meetings, and any other important events that take place within the team:

“As a notebooker, I organize, create, and manage our notebook. Notebooking is a demonstration of the core of robotics, the engineering design process, and the program as a whole. Between its pages are organized documented steps that the team has taken to reach where they are. It’s a retelling of a team’s struggles and reiterations. Looking back at it allows a team to guide themselves forward towards constant progress,” as the physical notebooker, Keshav Subash, a sophomore on 1082M (Varsity) speaks.

Mary (“MJ”) Sheridan, a sophomore on 1082R (Varsity) who is a notebooker, project manager, and co-captain states:

“I work with my team to create a schedule of our tasks and ensure that we stick to that schedule. I also document the process of the designing, constructing, programming, and testing our robot. Project management is fundamental to a robotics team because we all have busy schedules, so delegating tasks and having set deadlines for completion helps us to manage our time. Documenting the engineering design process is a huge part of robotics, and it’s also a key part of being an engineer.”

Although these are the fundamentals on a robotics team, there are also important subroles. The project manager manages the time and keeps everyone on track. The drive team maneuvers the robot during a competition, and in the drive team, it is important to have someone who can provide peer input. The cadder designs the mechanical components.

Natasha Gittemeier, a freshman on 1082D(EIT) speaks:

“I am a co-captain, lead builder, and cadder. As a co-captain, I communicate any issues we have within the team like deadlines or lack of communication. I also make sure everybody always has something to work on. This lets our team be productive and… learn strong communication skills for other parts of life. As a lead builder and cadder, I model the design to give people a general idea of what I want. I will typically start the design one day and instruct the other builders on what to do when I’m not there. This teaches me and the team collaboration skills. I am also able to learn leadership skills and building techniques through this.”

 

Competitions

Now, the crucial part of these roles is to put it in action at a competition. This year’s challenge is called “Over Under”. In simplistic terms, robots have to navigate triballs into their goal and have as many as possible on their side.  The competitions that the Lovejoy Robotics teams attend are not just locally, but further out of Texas. Once a year, all varsity teams go out of state to compete in a Signature Event, where teams from around the world come together and try their best to qualify for, not state, but directly into the World Championship. In order to qualify, winning the following “Excellence Award” or “Tournament Champion” is essential. This year’s annual trip was to Indianapolis, with 1082R winning the Design Award. Another annual competition, as well as tradition, is Southlake, Greenville, and more recently, Wylie tournaments.

 There are also overnight trips that take place, but aren’t quite often. This year, teams 1082G, 1082T, and 1082S had gone to an overnight trip to Abilene, Texas (due to the fact travel was farther). 1082T became the finalist, winning the Excellence Award and Tournament Champion. 1082S won the Design Award, and 1082G made it to the  Quarterfinals. Robotics teams also attend the 5A UIL State Championship in Houston. Lovejoy Robotics is located in VEX Robotics Region 5, but has recently expanded into a larger section.

 

 Awards

In every competition comes the winners prize of awards. In Lovejoy Robotics, the most common awards are the Excellence Award, Tournament Champion, Design Award, Innovate Award, and Skills Champion. The Excellence Award is given when there is an overall excellence or achievement in the Judged Award and the Performance Award categories. The Tournament Champion is when the 2 teams win in a Finalists Match Alliance, since matches are always 2 vs 2. The Design Award is given in recognition of the Engineering Design Process, team organization, time/project management, and having the best engineering notebook. The Innovate Award is given for the team’s “novel aspect” of design, which is connected to the Design Award. Robot Skills Champion Award is given for a team’s “highest combined top Programming and top Driving Skills Challenge score”. Furthermore, there are more recognition awards that are won by the teams, such as the Think Award, Amaze Award, Judges Award,  Build Award, Create Award, Energy Award, Inspire Award, and the Sportsmanship Award.

 

 Lovejoy Robotics Motto

 As with every great program, there are determining statements and strong values. The Lovejoy Robotics mission statement is, “to propel every person, team and robot to excellence”. Their core values and beliefs are “Best Today. Better Tomorrow”, which is to show that there is always room for growth, and no restrictions are placed on what may be the “best”. Additionally, it’s not possible to be the best unless “People come first”. The meaning of this statement explicits that everyone is meant to lift one another, rather than focusing on oneself. Lastly, the most important overall statement is “One Heart. One Lovejoy. One Team”, in regard to our school robotics program, and this statement indicates that although there may be a separation in experience between the different tiers, Lovejoy Robotics is still oneteam as a whole, striving for all to be the leading focus.             

Taking everything into consideration, Lovejoy Robotics continues to precede above limitations under any circumstances. Between teachers, parents, coaches, staff, and students, everyone is a team as a whole, no matter who wins or loses. To learn more about Lovejoy Robotics, check out their website lovejoyrobotics.com, and the social media platforms to support the continuing journey and success. 

Lastly, I asked Coach Strickland that if you had to explain to someone with no experience what the Lovejoy Robotics program is, he states:

“Robotics is working as a team to solve an engineering problem where you have to build, program and drive a robot. These problems are solved through competitions that are very fun challenges. Our program does this in a unified and safe environment where everyone matters and belongs, and we’re so proud of that.”

 

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About the Contributor
Zahara Abedin, Staff Writer
Zahara Abedin is a freshman and beginning her first year in TRL. She loves to write, because she is able to express her inner thoughts and feelings. However, she also finds an interest in other activities such as crocheting, arts and crafts, dance and any other type of artistic forms that allow space for creativity. Zahara aspires to be a journalist in the future and hopes to gain more knowledge to succeed this passion!

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