Hawks preparing to storm the Stronghold
By Darren Lum
After three years the Red Hawks Robotics team is hoping for greater success with its most dynamic challenge to date facilitated by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competitions.
This year, the 15 member team is creating a robot that will be capable of working in an alliance of three robots to score more points than another team of three robots by overcoming a line of fortifications and raiding a tower – think medieval era castle attack – by pushing and/or throwing balls at a tower to capture it in a challenge called FIRST Stronghold.
Teams are formed randomly until the playoffs and the fortifications are chosen for every match. One of the fortifications at the end is a low bar while the middle one is chosen by the audience with the remaining three chosen by the opposition.
The Hawks will compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition from March 23 to 26 at Nipissing University in North Bay. There are 31 registered teams, including one American team and two teams from China. Although all teams are encouraged to create a team standard or flag and dress up for the event, the team is focusing its attention on the robot.
Hawks team captain Cody Williams said they are excited about this year’s raid scenario far more than the recycling scenario last year when the main objective was to move and stack containers.
Williams said they are also more prepared this year. The team has been meeting for the past couple of months. During that time the members did preliminary work towards programming, electrical study for wiring, designing, and building an operational catapult.
Besides his love for robotics, particularly mechanical systems, Williams appreciates being the team’s leader.
“I enjoy leading a team like this. Everyone is really interested. A lot of these guys want to go into careers that are similar to robotics. You know, technology related. Being able to help with that is good,” he said.
The Grade 12 student wasn’t sure of his future before he joined the team, but is certain because of his experience with the team he will pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
“Before robotics I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it has helped me to believe that’s a career for me,” he said.
Team consultant Dan Gimon, who has a wealth of experience in the technology industry, said he characterizes this year’s team as “green, but are keen.”
“I think that is a good thing,” he said.
The comments written below a video describing this year’s challenge is being described as a blend of the past challenges, which gives Haliburton an idea of the mechanisms they can add to its robot for FIRST Stronghold, Gimon said.
He is also working with faculty advisor Dan Fockler, who has also been with the team from the beginning.
Both of them welcome the challenge of having to make a robot that possesses a variety of skills from moving to throwing.
Gimon adds there are far more members who have stayed with the team from the beginning of this season relative to other years. Last year the team was left with eight at the end.
The team is comprised of six Grade 9s, four Grade 10s, one Grade 11 and four Grade 12 students.
He said this strong contingent of Grade 9s and 10s is a good foundation towards the long-term viability of the club.
Grade 9 student Vaibhavi Marathe is one of three first-year members with the club.
She joined this year because she enjoys computer coding and has experience from when she was part of the Techno Girls computer coding club in J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School. Marathe is fascinated by robots and is excited about “how cool [it is] we can make things move.”
Her first exposure to robotics up close was a robot made by last year’s club.
Gimon said his involvement the past three years has always been because of the students’ excitement.
“Watching them get excited about this kind of stuff and I love this stuff too. I’ve always been into games and building stuff and fixing stuff. I enjoy it as much as they do,” he said.