HC Robotics Team is Geared Up for Competition

Allison Kelton

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On February 21, 63 students sat down for dinner and cake, hugged, and placed their pride and joy–a newly built robot–into a plastic bag, to be sealed and stored away. That day, formally titled “Stop Build Day” by the organization called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), is an annual celebration of the achievements and hard work of Team 3637, also known as The Daleks, Hunterdon Central’s robotics team.

 

FIRST is an international organization that hosts robot-building competitions and other STEM-related events. The goal of the organization is to give developing minds the opportunity to discover and indulge in their passions for technology and other subjects within the STEM field. Students can join FIRST and take part in events upon entering kindergarten and remain student members through high school graduation. Hunterdon Central participates in FIRST’s Robotics Competition (FRC), the program designated specifically for high schoolers. Competitions are held and there are chances for students to receive awards and forms of recognition for essay and video submissions.

 

The Daleks actively begin to participate in such rituals near the beginning of the school year; pre-season officially begins in November, when the team opens its doors to new and returning members. Meetings, held on Monday nights, show the ropes to beginners, while the experienced veterans refine their skills and practice leading other members. During this period, the team organizes, collects sponsorships, plans for the year ahead, calculates the yearly budget, and gives mechanical, electrical, and safety training to those who will work in the build room. In January, the team comes together in the early hours of the morning to watch a series of videos broadcast across the country. These videos, produced by FIRST, are known as the Game Reveal. They announce the theme of the yearly competition and describe the new matches and objectives. They also explain what functions robots will be required to perform in order to be considered successful during a game. After the broadcast is completed, all participating teams have exactly six weeks–known as “build season”–to construct and polish the robot that they will use in order to win competitions and move on to higher-level events. In April, the Daleks will compete at Bridgewater-Raritan and Montgomery High School, as well as Lehigh University if qualified for the championship.

 

This year’s theme, “Steamworks,” is an original challenge with steampunk origins. Steampunk is an area of science fiction that is inspired by the steam-powered technologies of the 1800s. Competing teams must build their robots such that they can move and place gears, shoot goals, climb a rope, and carry “fuel.” Together, these actions power an “airship” given to each side for the duration of the match. At the end of the fixed time, the team with the stronger airship is declared the winner, and the competitors prepare for their next round. All competitors are united by one dream: qualifying for the world championship in St. Louis, Missouri. With this goal in mind, they reset the playing field and work tirelessly towards their next competition.

The team functions similarly to a lock; the two main groups, technical and business, are represented by the largest gears. From there, the gears become smaller and represent the team’s subunits. The technical team is composed of the mechanical group, electrical group, and the programming group. The mechanical group works on building the robot and creating a stable structure. Meanwhile, the electrical team ensures that the robot can properly move and complete actions when powered on. Lastly, the programmers establish the connection between the robot and the drivers, the people who give the robot commands and control it during a game. The business team, on the other hand, is a team with a varied distribution of roles. Artists may join The Daleks and work in the imagery sector of the business group to design our team logo, uniform, banner, and standard. Students with an interest in business and accounting work on the team’s finances and budget. Strong public speakers and potential salespeople make persuasive pitches to judges and sponsors on the team’s behalf during competitions. Photographers help capture our progress from year to year, and writers manage the Dalek newsletters, blog posts, award essays, and other miscellaneous pieces that provide a chance to pick up a pen and paper. Working together, each gear propels the others into a symbiotic system that allows the team to overcome any obstacle it encounters. Visit The Daleks’ personal website here: https://www.team3637.com

The Daleks are an enthusiastic, hardworking team within the Central community; students of all talents are welcome to join and discover their dreams and passions by fulfilling one of the countless roles that help make the team successful. From introduction day to the last competition, the word “dull” doesn’t exist in the game manual, and, with each season gone by, the ever-present feeling of family grows stronger.

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HC Robotics Team is Geared Up for Competition