Robotics Club Enters Third Year (Interview)

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The Robotics Team is entering its third year of existence at Mt. Greylock. On November 16th, the Echo interviewed freshman Anthony Welch to get some background on what Robotics Team is all about as well as what the group’s plans are for the year.

Echo: Can you tell me a little bit about the Robotics club? What kinds of things do you do?

Anthony Welch: So Robotics club is a half club, half team. We are given a challenge or a game the same as every other First Robotics team, and we have six weeks to build a robot that completes that challenge, then we have to put it in a bag and seal it. We are only allowed a small amount of time to work on the robot outside the bag which we use if it breaks at a competition, and we are allowed twenty pounds outside the bag without regulation.

Echo: When and why did you join?

Welch: I joined the team in seventh grade. After hearing about it I wanted to join because I had done Lego robotics at Lanesborough Elementary. I went to the introductory meeting and became very interested.

Echo: Would you say you have to be good at math in order to enjoy it?

Welch: Absolutely not. Thank you for asking. This is so untrue, and we encourage people with all different skills to join robotics. Math and science proficiency helps in the building process, but this is not the only aspect of robotics. We need people to photograph the matches and meetings for our Instagram page. We need people who can code, people who organize fundraisers – there is something for everybody… even people that like English can help write applications for awards, and we have a website to upkeep.

Echo: Do you have to have any special skill sets that you contribute?

Welch: So the skill that I bring to the robotics team is my creativity and design abilities. I am the Build Lead, which means that I oversee the building of the robot after we decide on a design, make sure we follow the rules, and keep on track what needs to be done within the six weeks.

Echo: Are there competitions? If so, what are they like and how often do they take place?

Welch: Yes, this is where the team part of robotics comes in. We attend three competitions – two in March and one in November. The competitions are so much fun. They are held in large gymnasiums where the game field is set up in the middle. This is where the robots complete the challenges. The matches, as they are called, are alliances of three teams against three other teams. Alliances work together to complete the tasks and are awarded points based on performance. The alliance with the most points wins. You get two ranking points for winning.  The top eight teams with the most rank points become alliance captains and can choose who they want on their alliance for the tournament part of the competition.

Echo: Does everyone work on an individual component of a project or do you work as a team for everything?

Welch: So there is a little of both. At the beginning, we need to decide what our robot’s going to look like as to best complete the task, but after that, we break up into smaller groups like building, Electronics, coding, awards, strategy, and marketing.

Echo: How often do you meet and where?

Welch: At the start of the season, we will meet every day but Wednesday after school until five – you can show up whenever, you can work around your schedule and even play on a sports team or do the musical and be part of Robotics Team.

Echo: Are there any club officers?

Welch:  In Robotics club we have a hierarchy. On top is Brandon Fahlenkamp, who is our team captain, and under Brandon there are different leads. I am the building lead, Kayo Rosse is the electronics lead, Brody Baumgartner is the coding lead and Amelia Murphy is the marketing lead.

Echo: What would a typical meeting look like?

Welch: At a typical meeting, we begin together and decide what we are all going to work on. Then we split off and work for a time. With a few minutes left we clean up and regroup at the end, telling each other what we have completed.

Echo: What kinds of materials do you use for your projects and where do you get them?

Welch: At the beginning of the season, we are given a box of parts that First Robotics thinks might be helpful. This includes the wheels for the robot and the drive train, as well as electronics, motors, and other things we might need. Any extra materials that we order from Andy Mark, which is a partner with First Robotics. In our robot, we use a lot of extruded aluminum. The robot also has many electronic components, like a central computer, a radio, and a Battery. We can purchase parts because of grants from various sources and we hope to start fundraising soon

Echo: What were the results of your last competition?

Welch: Our last competition was on November 3rd and we placed third out of the eight alliances.

Echo: What are you working on at the moment?

Welch: Right now is what you might call our offseason in robotics, but we are working on figuring out how to use new technology like pneumatics so that we might be able to use them in our design for next year.

Interview has been edited and condensed by Echo staff.