By Andrew Ballard
Big things are happening in the small robotics classroom on second floor Post. For the past three months, Mamaroneck High School’s robotics club—a group of fifteen students interested in computer science and engineering—has been toiling for hours after school to construct an automated machine that the club hopes will be able to climb up ramps and lift objects to compete in an upcoming competition.
The competition—titled the “Res-Q” challenge—is hosted by FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a national organization that aims to inspire students from kindergarten to high school in the sciences and mathematics. Mamaroneck’s team will compete against many others from across the country in a race to employ their robot in the tasks of rescuing climbers in a simulated mountain disaster in the second week of January.
Currently, the team has constructed the base of their robot—a shoe-box-sized nest of wires that moves quickly on two tank-like treads. In the coming weeks, they will continue to build on the structure, adding scoops and a moving arm. The goal in doing so is ultimately to enable the robot to reach a high score in the contest, which involves a face-off of two teams, each made up of two allied robots from different schools.
To collect points, the robots will need to climb a tall ramp—a simulated “mountain”—and lift “debris”—small boxes and balls—from a designated course. As robots climb higher on the “mountain,” their scores increase. Likewise, as each gathers pieces of scattered wreckage and moves it to a designated area, it gains more points. In all, the competitors are given approximately two minutes to raise their score as high as possible.
Despite such a tight time limit, the bulk of the competition takes place in the months prior to the big day. For robots to be competitive, their designs must be comprehensive, creative, and tested. In the time leading to the competition, the students will hone their ability to anticipate challenges and will work to make sure their robot is able to navigate them accordingly.
The Mamaroneck team hopes to have completed the robot by the beginning of the winter break. Students involved work in organized teams to build the robot. While one group spends their time perfecting the robot’s driving mechanism, the next focuses on assembling the robot’s arm, and another crafts the machine’s programing.
Robotics teacher Mr. Love and computer science teacher Mr. Jadav guide the group in the designing and construction process, offering the perspective and experience that has in past years and continues to allow the club excel. In addition, student club leaders Jack Phillips ’16 and Yi Zhao ’16 comprise much of the group’s direction and instruction as well.
Phillips commented on the club’s functioning, remarking that, “Generally, the atmosphere is very loose.” He also told The Globe that members are eager to welcome students who are interested in become involved in the club.
“We are always looking for people to join” he said, “you do not need to know much other than how to think with your brain to help us out.”