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Ready to roll

FDSH robotics teams to 'host' championships

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Dodger Bot moves some wobble-poles to a box outlined on the floor during a robotics demonstration at FDSH on Monday.

Robots will take over Fort Dodge Senior High today.

Well, kind of.

The FDSH Robotics Club is hosting the FIRST Tech Challenge League Championships today, with 21 other high school robotics teams competing virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From FDSH, there will be Team 7332, or Dodger Bot, which is comprised of mainly experienced upperclassmen. The other FDSH team is Team 10185, or From the Island of Misfit Robots, which is mainly newer, less experienced students.

Other local schools competing include Humboldt, Manson Northwest Webster and Southeast Valley.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
FDSH juniors Owen Recker and Eadin Clark use remote controls to drive their robot, From the Island of Misfit Robots, during a demonstration on Monday.

The students on the teams have been preparing for this tournament since the beginning of the school year, when they built their robots from the ground up after learning what the year’s game is from FIRST Tech Challenge, so they can build a robot that will work for those specifics.

At FDSH, the students stay after school whenever they can to work on perfecting their robot and coding, sometimes staying as late as 9 p.m., said Dodger Bot team member Elijah Yates, a junior.

In the week before this league championship, the Dodger Bot team was focused on programming for its autonomous component of competition.

“The biggest thing we normally do is we put something on then we sit and make revisions until it’s how we want, and then we add something more,” explained team member Matt Jass, a junior.

Overall, the team was feeling pretty confident about their preparedness for the league championships, noting their consistent performances this season and that they’re currently ranked fourth in the league.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
This is the robot for Team 10185, also named From the Island of Misfit Robots, which some FDSH students will be competing with today.

On Monday, the team was also working on shooting rubber rings into a target, which helps add points during matches. The problem they were running into was trying to get the robot to “pick up” the rings off the ground, to give them more chances to shoot since the robot can only hold three rings at a time.

“Without shooting, most matches we’ll end up getting 75 points,” Jass said.

That’s going to be the Dodger Bots’ X-factor today — many other teams competing don’t have working shooter functions on their robots to rack up extra points.

During competitions, the robots complete games in a 12-by-12-foot arena. The first part of the game is a 30-second autonomous period where the robot completes tasks that it is programmed to do by the students, like using a sensor to hit certain things or move components into boxes on the floor to score points.

Following that, there is a driver period where a student “drives” the robot using a remote and has it pick up disks off the ground to shoot at a goal. The endgame gives points for the robots picking up wobble-poles and placing them outside the arena.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The robot for Team 7332, or Dodger Bot, shoots a ring at a target during a demonstration on Monday at Fort Dodge Senior High.

The robots are made each school year by the students themselves, using a basic robot kit and adding components and circuitry as needed to attain the final model envisioned by the team. One feature of this year’s robots are the Mecanum wheels, which allow the robots to move forward, backward and sideways without ever having to turn.

All that building, coding and tinkering has led to today, the league championship, said FDSH industrial technology teacher and Robotics Club advisor Ed Birkey.

“They have to interview with a panel of judges in the morning and then we’re going to do six matches and they take their scores on those and turn those in,” he said. “What happens is the judges get together and decide which teams look good for what awards.”

The top 12 teams from today’s league championships will move on to the super qualifier tournament held at Le Mars on March 27. The top finishers at the super qualifier will advance to the Iowa Championship in late April.

The awards ceremony for today’s championship tournament will start at 5 p.m. on Sunday and can be streamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCXcuQgNKy4&feature=youtu.be.

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