During the Middle Ages, knights would battle in tournaments to prove who was superior.
Fast-forward more than 400 years as the members of Smith-Cotton’s Team SCREAM prepare for their tournament competition in the FIRST Stronghold Robotics contest.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this,” senior captain Levi Anderson said. “This is the most ambitious game we have ever been a part of and to be honest the thought of it really has me sacred to death because there are so many challenges and things that we have never encountered before.”
Team SCREAM coach and instructional technology teacher Michael Wright and the 47 members of the team first learned about the new format for the challenge Saturday when FIRST Robotics debuted the game.
“We learned about the new game on Saturday morning,” Anderson said “Then we spent the next two days in strategy and planning sessions.
“We had some heated debates when we were developing our plans but we are all in agreement about what we are doing and the focus we are going to be taking for this competition.”
The theme of the competition is part “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and involves some of the most advanced robotics Team SCREAM has developed.
“Essentially what we have to do is build the most powerful, highly competitive robot that we ever have,” Wright said. “The challenge of this game is the complexity of the different skill levels we have been asked to compete at.”
The game, played on a 27-foot by 54-foot field (approximately half the size of a basketball court), will require the robot the team builds to cross barriers, throw boulders and scale castle towers in an attempt to score the most points.
“It’s not only the difficulty of the challenges that makes this year’s event so interesting,” Wright said. “There is also the strategic aspect as well because we will be paired with random teams as part of the competition in the first rounds so we have to use their strengths and weaknesses to advance.”
Both Wright and Anderson said a key to this year’s robot would be its size.
Last year the team’s robot, Kong, was 4-foot by 6-foot.
This year the strategy is to build small.
“It’s going to be a really daunting task to fit everything that we need mechanically into such a small space,” Anderson said. “This year we are planning for our robot to be no taller than 16 inches.
The size is based on the obstacles the robot will face on the field.
“We’re going to have to pack a lot into the design which is a challenge in itself,” Wright said. “It’s easy to build big but this is truly going to be an undertaking for us.”
Wright said one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition was the professional cooperation between the teams and especially the willingness to help on behalf of his students.
“When we go to the competitions we will be working with teams who have so many different levels,” Wright said. “Our members really want to help each other and members from other teams.
“Some of the teams may come with robots that they simply haven’t completely built, and times things may break down on one of them,” Wright added. “One of the things that I am most proud of is that our students want to help other teams when and if they can.”
Wright said that he once again is working with an exceptional group of good kids and mentors.
“We are so fortunate to have all the support from the community and area businesses that we do,” Wright said. “Some of our mentors come from Maxion Wheels, Gardner Denver and ProEnergy and they provide so much knowledge and help that we are truly grateful for.”
That knowledge will be put to good use for the team members in the upcoming weeks, as they have six weeks to complete their robot from concept to final project.
“It will be tough because we have never played a game like this before,” Wright said. “I am confident we will have the prototype done in the next four weeks and from there it comes down to practice and adjustments.”
“Building a robot is an iterative process,” Anderson said. “Mr. Wright always teaches us not to resist change because change is good, it helps us to become better.
“There is a lot of trial and error involved in all of this,” Anderson added. “We will change something on the robot in a heartbeat if it helps us to become better.”
The first competition for the team will take place March 9-12 at the Greater Kansas City Regional competition.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484