PT Roboctopi receive award for quality at districts

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 5/23/18

 “Proud” was how the advisor of the Port Townsend Robotics team described himself, after the students completed their season at the district level.“Remember, this year’s team is mostly …

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PT Roboctopi receive award for quality at districts

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 “Proud” was how the advisor of the Port Townsend Robotics team described himself, after the students completed their season at the district level.

“Remember, this year’s team is mostly new,” adult mentor Brian Morningstar said. “Eighty percent of the team graduated high school last year, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve for the rookies.”

The local For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Team, also known as the FIRST Roboctopi, took part in two district events this year.

During its fourth week of competition, the team attended the Pacific Northwest District Glacier Peak event March 23-25 in Snohomish.

“Our robot was designed to lift a milk crate 7 feet in the air,” Morningstar said. “But during the warmup for our first match of the competition, we realized the primary lifting motor had burned out.”

Although the team went into action to implement emergency repairs, it had to forfeit the first match.

“They had the equivalent of a Formula One race car missing a wheel, where 95 percent of the robot worked well, but the kids had to run emergency pit stops to troubleshoot the problems and fix it on the fly,” Morningstar said.

After modifying the robot and replacing the lifting motor several times – it had stopped working due to what Morningstar said remained “unknown reasons” – the team eventually finished the event with a 2-10 win/loss record, coming in 36th place out of 36 teams.

“Yes, we came in dead last,” Morningstar said. “But while it seems like a losing event, our predominantly novice team learned what FIRST competitions are all about: going to the matches with the robot you have; being able to modify, repair, rebuild and troubleshoot them under extreme duress; and keeping a cool head while maintaining one of the core tenants of the game, which is gracious professionalism.”

Morningstar reported that the Roboctopi let off some steam after the stressful event by congratulating each other on the many hurdles they’d surmounted.

“With only two more matches to go the next day, the team could have been really mad and dejected, after all the hard work from our build season, but the kids were sitting in a hot tub at a hotel, laughing about all the trials and tribulations they had endured during the day,” Morningstar said.

Which is not to say the Roboctopi walked away empty-handed, since the team won an award for robot quality in design and building in its second event. Morningstar credited the accolade in no small part to the support the students received from “our many generous donors.”

The Roboctopi’s second event followed closely after the first, March 29-31 at Auburn Mountainview High School, during the team’s fifth week of competition.

“This event went much better for us, with a win/loss record of 8-4,” Morningstar said. “The team ended up ranking 19th out of 35 teams, or about the middle of the field.”

Morningstar credited the team’s improved performance to better execution of repairs, as the students had gained a greater familiarity with the events.

“The drive team was changed up, to allow rookie team members to gain some much-needed competition experience,” Morningstar said. “Having demonstrated a robot that was capable of advanced scoring, our team was selected by another team to continue on to the finals. Unfortunately, our alliance was eliminated after our first two out of three matches in the quarter-finals.”

Nonetheless, when the Roboctopi team was presented the Motorola Solutions Foundation-sponsored quality award at the end, Morningstar deemed it a testament to the group’s efforts throughout the season.

“They built connections and sponsorships with local businesses,” Morningstar said. “They also worked with designers, tradesmen and neighboring industries to create a project that not only fulfilled the game’s requirements, but also helped the team itself streamline its decision-making process. That’s quite an accomplishment, regardless of the Roboctopi’s district ranking.”

As a long-term goal, Morningstar noted the Roboctopi plan to working with FIRST Washington to disseminate the program to elementary and middle school students in the Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene school districts.

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