BY NUHA ISLAM
Deep in the Plantation Middle School gym, high schoolers from all over the county gathered around a 12-by-12 ring low to the ground. In it, four robots of different build face off on a playing field mapped with yellow cones. This is the first scrimmage for the Robotics Team that can potentially lead them to state and national competition.
“It’s a very creative process, lots of ideas get thrown around, most of which don’t work,” Robotics coach Chris Martin said. “The best part is waiting for things to break, and finding fun fixes for them.”
At robotics competitions, schools partner randomly with other schools within the district to play multiple matches. Each round is broken up into two parts. One is known as the autonomous period where robots compete independently for 15 seconds, and the second is driver controlled play, lasting for a 105 seconds. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing team.
Teams can earn points by a variety of actions, like stacking cones and mobile goals. While the objectives are simple in theory, hours of practicing and coding go into making the robots ready to use.
“The process of designing and building go way back to the start of the school year,” club president Madison Worley said. “Many of the the club members have robotics as an elective in their schedule. We also have other members that we have to teach from the beginning. We then have to design, program and build from scratch the robots. At every step we are met with challenges that need solutions.”
CCHS won the Best Build Award at the tournament, for best designed robot at the end of the tournament.
“If you’re interested in engineering, if your interested in making things, and actually creating something with your own hands, solving problems, robotics is the way to go,” Martin said. “It’s the application of all those math and science classes you take and it allows you to do something fun instead of just learning it.”
The competition is hosted by VEX Robotics, with this year’s theme being “In the Zone,” in order to attract potential STEM students develop a prolonged interest in the field. The online platform VEX Virtual Worlds was used to practice writing code for the autonomous rounds. VEX also provides the materials needed to construct bots and the class curriculum.
“Currently in the workforce, there is a real shortage of people who take interest in technological development,” club sponsor David Schultz said. “It is important for these people to exist because they are the future of many of the most exciting innovations we expect to see.”
The competition not only aims to foster a love for engineering, but to teach students how to work collaboratively to accomplish goals.
“Being on the robotics team can teach you just as much about leadership, cooperation and teamwork as Student Government or any other club for that matter,” Schultz said. “Even though the robotics room is tucked away from the rest of the school, the lessons these kids learn are invaluable.”
Photo by Benjamin Milgram