Reflections on the FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge

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Reflections on the FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge
Alex McNeill ’20

Robotics competitions help students learn to problem solve, compromise and work with others under pressure.


The top two teams from Ravenscroft’s January “Battle of the ’Bots” advanced to the FIRST Tech Challenge regional robotics tournament on Jan. 26, and both teams overcame technical challenges to make it into the semi-final round. Alex McNeill ’20 shares his reflections on the experience.

I had a lot of fun at the FIRST Tech Challenge! Our team was RoboRavens1, consisting of Sergi Roura ’19, Edward Purrington ’20, Davis Lambert ’19 and me.

My favorite part was getting to meet new people and work with them at the event. It was very competitive and there were 21 teams. During matches, there were two teams of two going against each other, and we had to do certain tasks to earn points. Our robot was able to autonomously drop down from the hook and place our 3-D printed marker in the corner of the field. Then, in remote-controlled mode, it was able to pick up objects and place them in a box and latch on for a pull-up.

As a group, we knew from the start that we wanted our robot to be able to do a pull-up because of how many points we could get from it. We definitely faced a lot of trial and error with our robot, and it took us a few months before we were ready to compete.

During the competition, our team faced a few challenges. However, we used skills we had developed in class to overcome our issues. At the beginning of the competition, our robot wasn’t able to do a pull-up. This was weird because it usually was consistent with them. We had to quickly change out one of the gears for our arm and adjust the programming. I believe the issue was that since we were using a fully charged battery, it had too much power. So Edward, our programmer, was able to quickly reprogram the robot so it wouldn't pull up too fast. We also put duct tape on our hook to give it more grip.

We were able to fix it and successfully do a pull-up in every match. Our biggest success was making it to the semi-finals. Even though we lost, we all enjoyed it and are were happy with how far we made it.

In robotics we learned how to build, wire and program our robot. Through robotics I have become better at problem solving, compromising and working with others. This showed in the competition because when we had an issue we were able to quickly and easily find a solution.

RoboRavens1 members: (left to right) Alex McNeill ’20, Davis Lambert ’19, Sergi Roura ’19 and Edward Purrington ’20.