Smith-Cotton High’s Team SCREAM and other high school robotics teams around the world on Saturday learned about their challenge for the 2017 season as FIRST Robotics Competition unveiled this year’s game, FIRST Steamworks.
The game, which has a steam punk and airship theme, involves creating a robot that can shoot plastic balls into high and low goals, place gears to drive rotors and climb a rope to the airship control center. Teams will work in three-member alliances to attempt to outscore their opponents at regional competitions to qualify for the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis, scheduled for April 26-29.
Team SCREAM – Smith-Cotton Robotics, Engineering and Mathematics – is looking to return to the world championships; last year was the first time in four years that it did not qualify for the finals.
Saturday marked the first day of the six-week build season in which FRC teams will design, create and test their robots before regional competitions begin in March. Students who were on Team SCREAM last year saw resemblances to the 2016 FIRST Stronghold challenge.
“My first impression is that it is pretty similar to last year, so our experience from last year is going to be important,” said junior Dustin Belsha. “It still has the shooting mechanism, although I feel we are going to focus more on the placement of the gears just because the volume of balls you have to get to score even a single point on the shooting side is just ridiculous.”
Senior Erik Izazaga, a leader on the mechanical team, added that Steamworks “seems a little more convoluted than last year. It has more intricate details and I didn’t think that was possible, but somehow they always do that.”
S-C instructional technology teacher Kyle Stoecklein is in his first year as head coach for Team SCREAM, after serving as an assistant the past few years. He has Team SCREAM focused on tackling all the details that could lead to a return to St. Louis and FIRST World Championships.
“I think the game is one of the more difficult games that we have seen,” he said. “I think it has a lot of game pieces and we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Team SCREAM members spent Saturday brainstorming how to create a robot that can compete at the highest levels of FIRST, which means it will need to be able to shoot, place gears and climb.
“Most teams, I think, are going to specialize in one, maybe two areas, but the top-tier teams, the ones that are going to make it to (the world championship), are going to be capable of doing all three point-scoring mechanisms,” Belsha said. “If we want to be one of those top-tier teams, we are going to have to go for all three.”
“From what I have learned about any game that FIRST has put out, you’ve got to be able to do almost all of it before you go to competition,” he said. “We’ll have to focus on being able to shoot into each goal and also place the gear, which I believe will be the toughest part of the game.”
While the team has plenty of work ahead in the next six weeks, they are ready to tackle the challenge. Belsha said, “I’m excited for the game this year and I hope it goes well.”
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Stoecklein is “confident in our veterans’ ability to coach our younger kids on how we do things. I think these guys are ready to handle this kind of challenge.”
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FIRST Robotics video showing how the game is played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMiNmJW7enI