Robotics teams get ready for competition

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.The Austintown and Canfield robotics teams sat in the Austintown Middle School cafeteria on Jan. 6 for the game reveal for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Pictured is the Austintown robotics team with lead mentor Rick Zimmerman.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.Both robotics teams will create and design a robot for the competition. They will use an extensive amount of physics, geometry and problem solving for the creation. Pictured is Canfield's robotics team with their lead mentor Don Crum.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.After seeing the game and the ways to score in the competition, the robotics students began to brainstorm ways to design their robots. Pictured is Austintown's robotics team working together to plan their designs.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.After the event, the robotics teams began their building process. Canfield will work about four hours after school Monday through Friday and up to 12 hours on weekends and breaks. Austintown will work five hours after school on Monday through Friday and on weekends as needed. Pictured are the Canfield robotics students looking for the best way to score points at the competition.


The Austintown and Canfield High School robotics teams met at Austintown Middle School for the FIRST Robotics Challenge game announcement on Jan. 6.

The event marked the beginning of the robotics seasons for the high school groups. They learned the game in which their robots will compete and how the game works. They have six weeks to build a robot for the specific game.

Rick Zimmerman, Austintown’s lead mentor, explained that the competition gives the students experience in many fields. They do the crafting of the robot, which includes cutting metals, doing the wiring and making air systems among other duties. They will need to problem solve and troubleshoot the robot’s issues. The creation of the robot uses their skills in math and science.

The competition also works on students’ communication and social skills. The game places three robots on one team, called an alliance, against another team of three robots. Each robot comes from a different school, so the teams have to learn to compete alongside strangers. To win, the alliance must have work together and have good communication skills.

The pairings of the schools are random. Teams on an alliance in one competition may be opponents in another competition.

Don Crum, Canfield’s lead mentor, believed that the best quality students work on through the process is problem solving. The students began planning their robots from the moment they watched the game reveal.

FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” began in 1989 with the aim of getting young people interested in science and technology through mentor programs, as stated on the organization’s website. The organization has more than 460,000 students participating in their programs globally and offers many scholarships and grants to students and schools.

Both FIRST and Zimmerman have found the competition to have positive effects in the students’ lives, with FIRST stating on their website that they have reported increases in students’ conflict resolution, time management and problem solving skills in 90 percent of the students. Zimmerman said that the students regularly receive scholarships from colleges and learn while having fun during the program.

Both the Canfield and Austintown groups plan on working on their robots after school each day for the next six weeks. Crum said his students meet about four hours each day from Monday through Friday and will begin to work on weekends close to the deadline. He plans to have about 12 hours of work on the weekends and over breaks. Zimmerman said they will meet from five to ten Monday through Friday and work on the weekends as necessary.

FIRST has no regulation on how many students can be a part of a team. Austintown has 12 students on their team and Canfield has 22 students.

Both teams receive a good amount of help from their mentors. Austintown has Zimmerman, a mechanical engineer, Andy Yates, who helps the information technology side of the robot and Mike Mellott, a CAD design engineer with Aptiv. Canfield has a number of mentors, including Crum, an engineering teacher at the school, Dr. Michael Crescimanno, a physics professor at YSU, and architects Douglas Sipp and Darlene Tepe, among others.

The mentors will help the students create a robot to compete in this year’s FIRST Robot Competition game, which has a “POWER UP“ theme this year. Every year, the game has the teams do a series of objectives to score a different amount of points.

The game this year has a scale, switch and a vault. The alliance will have their robots place cubes onto their side of the scale to tip it in their direction. The platforms of the scale are 5 feet in the air. Teams earn points for every second the scale tips in their direction.

The switches work similarly. The robots place the cubes on one side of the lever, which only have to rise above a 18.75 inch wall. The field has two switches, one belonging to each team. When a team tips their scale toward their side, they score two points a second, like the scale. However, if the opponent tips the same lever toward their direction, no team scores points.

The vault brings in the power up aspect of the game. The robots give cubes to the players through an exchange area in the wall. The player then place the cubes in the vault and stack them in three columns that relate to the three power ups.

The “force“ power up gives a team points for the switch and scale for 10 seconds, even if neither lever tips in the team’s direction. The “boost“ gives an alliance a boosted score for ten seconds on the switch or scale, depending on if one or both are tipped in the team’s direction.

The last power up, “levitate,“ gives a robot a “climb” at the end of the match. The climb asks the robot to attach itself to a bar raised to 80.5 inches and lift itself a foot in the air, similar to a pull-up.

The game begins with a 15 second autonomous drive. The students have to program the robot to move and score points on its own. After that period, a human driver controls the robot’s movements and actions using a controller. The driver, and all other team members, stand outside of the field in which the robots play.

Both teams have experience in the competition. Austintown Fitch began their program nine years ago when Mellott talked to the school about it after creating a successful program at Warren. The Canfield team started six years ago after having received the NASA FIRST Robotics Competition Sponsorship Grant.

The teams met up at Austintown Middle School so the students could begin the brainstorming process on their designs. Canfield came to the school because their school hosted a speech tournament on the same day. Austintown will also host the regional FIRST tournament in May, where the top 24 teams in the region will compete.

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