Robotics kicks off the season

Marina Kazarian, Staff Writer

This year, the robotics team compete with robots built using a new milling machine, and will expand their horizons by participating in service learning programs and using different techniques to effectively design robots.

A new Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machine will allow the team to achieve more ambitious goals during their robot building season this winter.

“Our mill removes material from a piece of wood or steel, and it automates that process. You can do it either by hand or you can code it into the machine and let it do the work for you,” Gabby Fischberg (10) said.

The robotics team is comprised of two programs, the First Robotics Competition (FRC) and the First Technical Challenge (FTC). FTC consists of three teams with a maximum of fifteen students each, whereas FRC is made up of one large team that has no cap on its size, William Golub (12), co-captain of FRC, said.

There are three different divisions within the club: operations, software, and hardware. Operations is in charge of outreach and public relations, and software is in charge of programming. The hardware division’s job is to make sure the team has a clear idea of what the robot’s design is, manage the online model of the robot, and plan deadlines, Mitchell Yu (10), head of the hardware division for FTC, said.

“This year, teams are made based off of team dynamic instead of skill or experience,” Yu said.

There are at least three qualifying competitions for FTC, followed by NYC super qualifiers, NYC Championship, and Worlds, if the teams advance. FRC has two or three day competitions that are sometimes live streamed, Golub said.

The teams build robots that participate in games to earn points. Last year, the game for the FRC robot required the robot to pick up blocks and then shoot them into goals. The team members cannot start building the robot until January 5th, the day they find out the game and purpose of the robot this year, Fischberg, head of operations for FRC, said.

“During competitions, our robot is inspected to make sure that if fulfills the requirements. Then we go to a judging portion where we meet a panel of judges and talk about the robot and all of our outreach. After that, we play games where we actually use our robot to compete against other robots. We build our robot to be the best at the game assigned at the beginning of the season,” Erin Zhao (10), head of software for FTC, said. 

Nisha Sahgal (12), co-captain of FTC and a member of the hardware division of FTC, describes FTC as a small company; the members decide how to get fifteen people to contribute to the goal effectively, she said.

Aside from the new milling machine, the team is also implementing new service learning and outreach opportunities both in and outside of school this year, Sahgal said.

“People get stressed out and we need to figure out how to deal with that on a robotics team where you also have to focus on the robot,” Sahgal said.

Whether it is a new technique, technology, or pushing the limits of what the members already know, Robotics Lab Manager Fred Levy always tries to bring something new to the team, he said.

This year, the team plans on becoming more familiar with CNC programming, a technology that allows the computer to control the operation of the machine, thus describing several different machines, Levy said.

“We are really excited to start using the mill to fabricate our own pieces,” Sahgal said.

In terms of building the robot, everyone plays a role in the process, and the members with more experience help and teach others how to use the tools to build the robot, Yu (10) said.

“This year, we are really emphasizing communication. We are making sure that everyone knows what is happening with the robot,” Audrey Yu (12), co-captain of FTC and a member of the hardware division, said.

“We like to think of our team as a family. It’s not only just working there, you also get to know people,” Yu (10) said.