High school robotics team: From the Bot Cave to nationals
Make no mistake, the ERRORs, East Ridge High School’s robotics team, aresome of the best.
The ERRORs were able to qualify for the World Championships after winning first place at the Northern Lights Regional Championship in Duluth in late February.
“It’s pretty awesome,” East Ridge senior Omar Ahmed said. “We didn’t really know how it would go.”
At the World Championship, 600 teams will be competing for several awards and prizes.
This is the third year in a row that a Woodbury team has advanced to the World Championships. The Math and Science Academy qualified the past two years, and East Ridge attended the World Championship in 2014 thanks to a waitlist.
“It’s exciting to have our own moment,” East Ridge junior Ethan Volk said.
The ERRORs has a total roster of 50, with 15 to 20 active members.
The FIRST Robotics Competition tasks teams with building a robot within six weeks that can perform a number of different tasks.
This year’s competition, which kicked off on Jan. 3, is called “Recycle Rush.”
In “Recycle Rush,” two teams of three robots each are trying to score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter.
Teams on an alliance work together to place as many totes on their scoring platforms as possible; alliances earn additional points for recycling containers placed on the scored totes, with containers at a greater height earning more points.
Additionally, the teams have the option of picking up the totes up from the field directly or by having a team member assist the robot in stacking the totes.
“It’s actually a very simple game with very simple rules,” said Doug Jensen, the ERRORs adviser, “but there’s many different strategies.”
For the ERRORs, much of the beginning of the season consisted of developing their strategy.
“It’s always super chaotic,” Ahmed said. “All these things come into your head, and we just couldn’t comprehend all the different elements that were in this game.”
Once the ERRORs actually got into their shop, which they affectionately refer to as the Bot Cave, it was time to start the process of building.
“We’ve seen a lot of creative solutions to this problem,” Ahmed said.
One element of the robot that took the most thought and design was the mechanism to not only lift the totes, but to also stack them.
In the end, the ERRORs came up with a device, called the Moose, which has two arms and “antlers” that could secure the recycling containers.
“Our greatest strength is that we’re able to do a lot of things really quick,” Volk said.
The ERRORs will have a chance to perfect their robot and their strategy in preparation of the World Championship since they will be competing in the NorthStar Regional competition this week, April 2-4, at the University of Minnesota.
Ahmed said he’s really excited about this year’s World Championship and the ability to show what their robot can do.
“I like that this year is a lot more mechanically complex,” he said. “It relies more on what the robot can actually do rather than how well the drivers can drive the robot.”