The ideas, energy, and continuous chatter crackle through Jesuit High School's Applied Technology and Engineering Center (ATEC) after school.
Jesuit Robotics is no place for the sluggish.
Machines are humming. Workstations are engaged. Problems are raised, discussed, brainstormed, attacked, and solved. It is a full-on, interactive robotics workshop experience.
Jesuit’s Stealth Tigers Robotics Team produces its competitive robots right here in the ATEC. During the FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC) robotics season this fall, the “JV” season, Jesuit's Team 4960 competed against the 17 other schools in Hillsborough County who are part of their league, earning 3rd place in two of the three competitions, including a 3rd-place result on Dec. 17 at Keystone Prep. The team's final competition is this weekend (Sat. Jan. 14) in Citrus County.
Each new Robotics season brings a new robot-building challenge. This fall’s was titled Velocity Vortex, and the made-from-scratch robots were faced with – in a 3-minute match – tasks such as moving particles (similar to Wiffle balls) onto ramps, throwing them into vortexes, placing them in corners and into goals, capping the vortex with a cap ball, and pushing against beacons to change/match their alliance colors.
Three team members participate in each match. Two drivers operate the robot, and the third person is designated a coach, who strategizes and monitors the clock.
Creating and programming robots to perform such tasks is especially daunting because each match contains three distinct periods:
- The first 30 seconds is the Autonomous period, when the robot maneuvers on its own, as it was pre-programmed to do.
- Then comes the Tele-op period, two minutes during which the robot is remotely operated by controller, a team driver maneuvering it around and performing tasks.
- The last 30 seconds is End Game, where more points can be scored via certain tasks that can only occur in these final 30 seconds.
Adding another layer of difficulty: Team alliances are changed from match-to-match within each competition. You must work with a new team each match, quickly formulating the best way to proceed based on each other’s strengths/limitations.
Making all of this happen successfully this season has been a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores coming together to work as a team. The FTC Stealth Tigers have been led by captain Daniel Guagliardo ’19 and Jack Wernet ’19, who is a leader in the robot build and design process.
Dominic Lafalce ’20 is a top strategist and analyst, determining the best way for the team to score points. Alex Good ’19 specializes in electrical aspects, and other multi-skilled team members include Kegan Lovell ’19, Andrew Jung ’19, and Chase Games ’20.
(Homepage photo, L-R: Jung, Lafalce, and Good at the Keystone Prep competition on Dec. 17.)
Also, upperclassmen with experience in the Robotics club (who will take the lead this spring during the “Varsity” season), such as Blake Motzer ’17, Ethan Gregos ’17, William Yount ’17, Chandler Rodriguez '17, and Christian Jung ’18, frequently drop by to mentor and help.
“I like that we get to work together toward an end result and compete against other schools,” said Yount, who worked with newer team members this fall on coding and wiring. “Most of the time we are student-led, and I think that’s what makes it so much fun – we get to decide how we want to go about things.”
Said Motzer: “It’s leadership, team building, and real-world problem solving.”
The ultimate goal is to accumulate enough ranking points to qualify for State. Besides competitions, teams also accrue points in supplemental events such as Judgment Day; by compiling an Engineering Notebook; and through submission of a video about the build process.
Lovell was the primary author of the FTC team’s Engineering Notebook. And last weekend was Judgment Day, when the team made a presentation before judges, talked about the robot, and demonstrated its abilities.
Robotics moderator Lauren Hescheles, who teaches engineering and computer science at Jesuit, has organized the team into groups, including Mechanical, Electrical, 3-D Design, Programming, and Documentation.
“There is a lot that goes into it all, more than people would imagine,” said Hescheles, who directs Jesuit Robotics along with David Huggins, P '15. “The team has done a really good job. They have a great rapport, they work very hard, and they are always thinking.”
There is a collaborative environment within the Stealth Tigers and within the Robotics community, as teams regularly share ideas and assist each other.
“It’s a very practical and useful learning environment,” Hescheles said. “These students learn how to design, code, wire, and build in order to solve real-world challenges. It teaches them how to work together, as well as leadership skills.”
The FTC season wraps up this weekend with a final competition, and then Jesuit Robotics shifts gears to the Stealth Tigers “Varsity,” Team 3164, and the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) season.
The kick-off event for FRC was this past weekend (Sat. Jan. 7), and the team gathered on campus and watched a live feed announcing their challenge. Click here to view the video of the STEAMWORKS challenge the FRC team will tackle this spring.
View a photo slideshow below of the the Stealth Tigers competing on Dec. 17 at Keystone Prep, and below that a slideshow of robot preparations in the ATEC.
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