By Kalea Hall
Don Crum watches his team of students, known as “The Circuit Birds,” diligently problem solve while building their robot for the FIRST Robotics Competition.
They might be on deadline on a snow day, but they are confident the robot they built inside “the nest” at Canfield High School will lead them to the top.
“It’s gratifying,” Crum said of his students’ work.
Twenty-one students will compete in two regional, three-day For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Aerial Assist Robotics competitions in Ohio starting March 20 and in Pennsylvania starting March 27.
The students spent countless hours over the long weekend and before that perfecting their robot. The deadline was at midnight Tuesday, giving the team six weeks to complete the robot.
“We have been here every snow day, late nights and weekends,” said Kyle Thompson, senior and chief robot programmer. “It’s fun.”
In fact, the team has been in the “nest” from 8 a.m. to midnight whenever possible.
They have a shot at the championship in St. Louis, Missouri in April.
The team built a robot that operates on a 12-volt, rechargeable battery with direct current motors that power the battery.
As Nick Crescimanno drills a hole into the robot to mount the air pressure release valve, Kyle explains that the valve releases pressure in the pneumatics system and is a basic safety feature on the robot.
The team must make sure the robot can perform the task of launching a ball in the competition. In some instances, the team is required to pass the ball to other robots, a task that requires critical thinking and knowledge of physics. In fact, many tasks at the competition require a good understanding of physics.
Kyle wrote the code for the robot to tell it what to do.
“It’s a learning experience, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult,” he added.
Kyle, who has competed on the robotics team for the past four years, plans on attending Ohio State University for computer science and engineering.
Along the way the team has had to problem-solve, but that helps them better develop the robot and their skills.
Last year, the team received the award for Rookie All Star at a regional competition in Pennsylvania and the highest rookie seed, placing 15th out of 44 teams.
“I try to help, but they really do a good job,” Crum said. “[We are] pretty confident.”