Editor's Note: Team Captain Max Morningstar is a student at West Sound Academy. The print version incorrectly stated where he went to school.
The Port Townsend Roboctopi FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team said thank you to its sponsors by giving them a sneak peek at this year’s competition robot March 3 behind the gym at Port Townsend High School.
The Roboctopi are slated to compete in Snohomish March 23-25, and in Auburn March 29-31. The team not only made it to the world championships in Houston, Texas, last year, but also managed to finish in the middle of its level.
Team captain and president Max Morningstar, a junior at West Sound Academy, explained to visitors, including Buster and Kiwi Ferris of Edensaw Woods, how the Roboctopi’s robot works.
“It's got a 6-foot elevator,” Morningstar said of the forklift-like assembly, which, like many FIRST Robotics competition robots, is given the task of picking up and depositing objects in point-scoring areas.
“It’s got six wheels and two speeds.” “This is pretty cool stuff,” said Kiwi Ferris, when asked how he felt about the fruits of his investment.
Kiwi’s son, Buster Ferris, added, “I wish they’d had something like this when I was in high school.”
Morningstar estimated that each of the team’s 15 members spent approximately 150 hours working on the robot, during the permitted six-week work window earlier this year.
“The game this year was relatively simple, compared to previous years, but in many ways, that required our strategy to be more complex,” Morningstar said. “In years past, our strategy had to be simpler, because the physical tasks our robots were assigned were more challenging. This time, we tried to figure out how we could score the most points consistently.”
THE BUDGET GOES TO ...
While the robot itself cost only $4,000 of the Roboctopi’s $25,000 budget, Morningstar noted that the remainder of that budget is quickly eaten up by expenses ranging from materials, tools and highly specialized components and electronics to big-ticket costs such as travel and lodging.
“The team raises funds through a combination of grants and individual and small donors,” said Morningstar, who thanked Edensaw for its “very helpful” contributions, along with Dog House Powder Coating of Sequim.
“Some of the companies have made in-kind donations of equipment.”
Morningstar, who has been a member of the team for the three years that he’s been attending high school, is one of only four returning team members this year.
All of the other team members are new; in fact, Max’s younger sister, eighth-grader Olivia Morningstar, counts as a relatively seasoned newbie because she’s attended FIRST Robotics competitions with her family in previous years.
“I could explain to the other rookies what it’ll be like, so they’re not in the dark,” Olivia said. “There are three ‘senior rookies,’ because our older brothers were on the team before, so we can mentor the others.”
Olivia previously worked with the FIRST Lego League, and while she enjoyed the building aspect of the league, she soon hungered for more complex challenges.
“We’re building robots the size of washing machines,” Olivia said. “I’ve been able to build the custom gear boxes and the pneumatics that actuate its motion. I’ve also drilled, riveted and cut pieces on the jigsaw.”
Nearly half the lineup of this year’s team is made up of young women like Olivia.
Freshman Evan Eades is another new team member, with no older siblings who have competed.
“I just enjoy making things and learning new skills,” said Eades, who does “a little bit of everything” for the team, as do many of his teammates.
The team is too small for its members to specialize too much in any one area.
“It’s taught me how to use my tools properly, and how these components interact. I have high expectations for the competition. It’s going to be big.”