Like in NASCAR, robotics competitions have a pit.
Megan Hauschild said it’s an exciting place to be when things need to be fixed.
“When we’re in competition, there’s a room with everyone’s pit. It’s kind of like NASCAR. We all just pull the robots in there, do our quick repairs and get out.”
Megan is a sophomore and a team captain for the Bainbridge High School robotics team, called Spartronics. The team recently had an open house for the public.
Randy Groves, one of the mentors in the program, said competitions test the students ability to respond to unexpected challenges.
“When something breaks, you have only five or ten minutes to fix it,” Groves said. “We could be sitting in line for the next competition in fifteen minutes, and we have to completely dismantle some parts and put another arm on. So, they get really good at figuring out how to do quick repairs.”
These skills are something engineering schools are looking for and have drawn the attention of many colleges. Another mentor, Bill Davis, mentioned that many Spartronics graduates have gone on to study at MIT, University of Michigan, Cornell, Cal Poly and more.
“Schools have noticed, and they are pumping a lot of money into scholarships for students who go through this program,” Groves said.
Megan said she has enjoyed her first year with robotics. “We get a game release every year on opening day, and we have two-and-a-half months to build a robot for competition season. It’s really exciting, and we put in a lot of work and effort to see the end result.”
John Sachs, a professional mentor for the team since 2014, said he enjoys seeing the kids learn new skills and seeing their eyes light up when they achieve little victories like putting a piece of code together to operate something.
Spartronics Team 4915 is student-run. Student leaders manage several subteams that include mechanical, electrical, pneumatics, marketing, design, strategy and programming. Spartronics meets after school several times each week and on weekends during the building season.
This year’s robot, named HERMES, was built by 30 students, 10 mentors and coaches Enrique Chee and Austin Smith.
Megan said the team went to regionals and competed against 140 teams in the Pacific Northwest and ranked in the top 50. “We went to Spokane during our break and did pretty well, and we’re hoping next year to go even farther,” Megan said.
All of the robots are named after Greek gods. HERMES stands for High Elevation Radial Manipulation Engineering Sensation Robot. In the large common area at the open house, everyone watched robots ATLAS and HERMES tackle different challenges of picking up and tossing balls. ATLAS took the team to the World Championships in 2014.
Sachs explained how the 2019 robot, CHAOS, a cargo hatch panel articulated operational system worked. The objective was to pick a dodge ball and put it into a structure that looked like a rocket ship. “It was a good robot for us,” he said, adding that CHAOS was challenged in the competition to climb a structure that looked like a set of monkey bars.
The team also offers programs for middle school students. For more go to spartronics4915.com.
This year’s team roster had about 30 members, but many seniors will be graduating, and the group is hoping to attract more students. Davis said the team is actively recruiting mentors for next year too with the marketing, programming, mechanics and electronics subteams. “There’s no pay, except there is pizza and sometimes burritos,” he said.