For the past six weeks, Zebrotics, Community’s robotics team, has been in its final stage of constructing their robot and testing its intricate mechanisms. Members of the team were grinding away in preparation for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition, which starts with a district-level competition on March 8.
Each year, the FIRST Robotics Competition has a different theme with unique challenges and specifications, referred to as the “game.” This year, the game is sponsored by Boeing and named “Destination: Deep Space.”
“You secure balls and hatches to spaceships, and there’s a sandstorm where you can’t see anything,” senior Max Westrum, head of business and marketing for Zebrotics, said. “It’s a weird game.”
After FIRST Robotics’ kickoff event on Jan. 5, where the game was revealed, teams started constructing their robot based on the specifications provided by the game rules and objectives.
“We get six weeks to do it,“ junior Elijah Nation, electrical and controls leader, said. “We start off with a game analysis, figuring out how we want to play this game. So, what are the best ways to score the most points? We take those ideas, then we engineer solutions to do those things.”
However, their robot isn’t the only thing Zebrotics needs to build. Before the competition starts, each team sets up their pit, which is where they can repair their robot if needed. The competition starts the next day and goes for two days.
“The Thursday before the competition, we go pretty late and we set up the pit late into the night,” Westrum said. “We set it up until 10, and then the following Friday is the first competition day. Competitions are held, stuff happens until six.”
Zebrotics’ first competition on Friday, March 8 is one of two district-level competitions. Teams that do well in those go to the state competition, and the best of all 6,575 FIRST Robotics teams end up going to one of two world competitions in Detroit and Houston. However, the state competition is unique to Michigan because of the state’s abundance of teams.
“We’re the only district with states,” Nation said. “Everyone else doesn’t because there are not enough teams. We just have too many teams because the state of Michigan funds every single team. Former Governor Snyder at some point decided that he was going to give state funding to every single team, and a bunch of schools popped up with teams.”
After six weeks of preparation for the competition season, Zebrotics is hopeful they’ll make it past the district competitions this year. However, making it to states and worlds is difficult because only the best teams from each competition move onto the next level.
“We came close last year,” Westrum said. “We did bad on our first district, but on our second district we got to the final. But unfortunately, because of our poor performance in the first district, we didn’t get to states.”
“It’s really hard to know,” Nation said.