Robotics Competition

launching giant balls to score the most points in a robotics competition that is one of several occurring at this time of year across the world.

With similar robots in tow, 37 schools from across Southern California made their way to Valencia High School on Saturday and Sunday, September 27 and 28, for the Fall Classic robotics competition, where they, like Valencia, were able to unpack their robots to see how they perform.

Teams competed in this year’s official competition task called “Aerial Assist.” Six robots from different schools enter the field with three lining up on one side and three others lined up on the opposite side. Each side is referred to as an “alliance.” The goal is to launch the giant balls precisely through the overhead goal posts. For the first 30 seconds of the competition, robots are programmed to run autonomously and make as many aerial goals on their own as possible. After that time, Tele-op starts. This is the time when students run the robot using a remote control. In the competition on Saturday, the top eight teams to score the most points during the first half of the competition advance to the second half until a winner emerges. A whole new competition starts on Sunday with that tournament being a double elimination.

Andy Crick, an engineering consultant who is serving as Valencia’s robotics mentor remarked that students’ experience building robots involves all aspects of engineering. “It involves computer programing since students have to write and program the software that controls the robot. It involves technology since students have to embed the cameras that serve as the eyes of the robot. There is electrical engineering since each robot requires a huge amount of electrical wiring. There is mechanical engineering since students cut and drill every hole and assemble every part.”

Valencia has developed many community partners since it launched its robotics club, called TiGears, two years ago. Boeing, Raytheon, Solidworks, Samsung, Rockwell, Cal State Fullerton, and even Foxconn Technology, one of the largest electronics manufacturing companies in the world, are a few of the many supporters. Foxconn even donated $50,000 to the program.

“Aside from all of the engineering skills that they learn, what I have observed students take away from the program is that they learn trouble-shooting and problem solving,” said teacher Dwight Osborne who teaches the school’s introduction to engineering, robotics and advanced robotics classes. “They are faced with a task and rather than freezing because there is not ‘a, b, or c’ answer, they instead figure out another way of getting to the answer.”

According to Crick, students with these skills who are involved in robotics competitions are often the first students that engineering schools in universities and industry quickly take in. “These students are not only better prepared but they are committed,” he said. “They attend approximately 12 hours of meetings each week.” He added that the FIRST Robotics competitions are so well-known worldwide by engineers that many engineering schools also give preferential admission or waive requirements to students who are involved. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Today, 17 countries with roughly 45,000 students compete.

Valencia High is even expanding. This year, the school launched its first all-girls robotics team. The school is also working with Kraemer students, even providing them a smaller robot to operate and enter in this weekend’s competition.

This is the first of several competitions that Valencia’s robotics team, comprised of approximately 30 students, will enter from now through the remainder of the robotics competition season.

In January, the new season officially begins again with FIRST Robotics sending out competition rules to interested schools. There is also a 100-page manual of rules and regulations to keep the event competitive but friendly. When the school receives the new rules, they will begin to build their next robot and again pack it up, since competition rules call for the students to only work on the robot for six weeks and then seal it up until competition time. Even though schools are allowed to build a second test robot to test between January and competition time, this weekend will be the first performance for Valencia’s Ariel robot.

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