Just seven days before Strike Zone began their opening competition of the FIRST Robotics season at Kettering University in Flint last week, they were concerned their space-age-looking bot might not get off the ground — quite literally.
“A week before our event, we finally had the chance to test the climber. It didn’t work and there was not much time to make it work,” said Matthew Schneider, a coach and mentor for Strike Zone Team 5460. “We had to redesign, build, and program the robot’s climber just a fews days before the event.”
Fortunately, troubleshooting is the name of the game in FIRST Robotics — and these students seem to always rise to the challenge.
“We were still working on the climber Thursday at the event, and finally got it working on Friday morning,” he said.
Friday morning, mind you, just hours before they hit the competition field and quickly ascended to the top spot in the competition on the strength of what was, at the time, a world-best score.
The team ultimately proved to be one of the elite among the 35 competing at Kettering, going 9-2-1 in qualifying. After the dust settled, Strike Zone was in the Blue Banner winning alliance alongside Clarkston and Swan Valley. It was in incredible performance right out of the gate for the team, which also won the coveted Excellence in Engineering Award given to the team that demonstrates a professional approach to the design process.
“Mechanical design and programming are our team’s strengths,” he said. “We have lots of students and mentors that are really good at what they do.”
After the first competition, it is likely this will not be the team’s only successful weekend this season. This is certain to be a popular robot.
“Its strengths are and will be its shooting ability,” Schneider said. “The robot’s shooter is super accurate. It is probably one of the most accurate shooters in Michigan.”
(Learn more about the 2022 game, here.)
Sometimes in a competitive environment, which FIRST Robotics certainly is, there are healthy competitions inside the team. This season, Schneider and fellow mentor Matt Lowe, have a competition tied to the awards which most closely mirror their particular role in the team.
“He’s a programming mentor and I’m a mechanical design mentor,” Schneider said. “I trained students so they could win the Industrial Design or Quality Award and Matt trained students so they could win the Autonomous or Innovation in Controls Award.”
As it turned out, the team won neither. They won the award which covers both mechanical design and programming.
“Right now, we are tied,” he conceded.
Strike Zone will be back in action March 31 – April 2 at the Troy Competition.
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