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Friday, 24 February 2017 12:16

Blue Streaks Robotics Head to Worlds

By | Education
SARATOGA SPRINGS — After a successful VEX Robotics Northern New York State Championship tournament Saturday, February 18, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, the Saratoga Springs Blue Streak Robotics team is heading to Kentucky in April for the VEX World Championship. Amanda Davis, a junior at Saratoga Springs High School, is a driver for the six-member team that competed, in charge of remote-controlling the robot. “States was a ton of fun,” she said, “but very stressful the entire day. Especially during elimination matches, when we had a couple malfunctions with motors overheating and not having enough batteries. In our division finals match, to decide to go to Worlds, our robot was not turned on properly, so we had to turn it off and back on in the middle of the match. I sprinted over to where the robot was and, thankfully, we were able to get it operating and won that match.” Basically, the competitors had to build a robot that would compete in a game against other robots all built from the same basic materials. There is a new game every year, and this year the game was called “Star Struck.” It involved foam “jacks” or “stars” that the robots had to throw over a wall, and the object was to get all your team’s stars on the other side. Collin Bolles, Saratoga Springs High School junior, said he spent a lot of time programming in preparation for States. “We have 15 seconds in each match when the robot is completely autonomous,” he said, “and that can sometimes make or break a game. I was focusing a lot on writing the autonomous code, so my driver was never starting off down points. We put a lot of effort into this, and into the engineering notebooks, covering all our bases. A strong engineering notebook is one of the ways into the World competitions.” According to Preston Sweeney, the administrator for the team, there were 64 teams at the State championship split into 2 divisions, one technology, one engineering. “These kids work hard, on weekends, non-stop. It was a nice feeling of Saratoga, Granville, and Queensbury working together as one unit,” said Sweeney. He added that the Blue Streaks have gone to States every year, and this will be the second trip to Worlds. “It’s quite the experience,” he said. “The Louisville Expo Center is just a monster facility, and basically you really have the world there – kids from China, Australia. You don’t know who you’ll be teamed up with. You could get teamed with kids that don’t know any English. It gives the kids a good experience.” Team parent mentor, Paul Davis, said, “They worked unbelievably hard. Not only did they work out the calculations to figure out what’s best in designing the robot, but they also strategized the game, and what teams they work with really well. It’s a real world situation. I think it’s preparing them for whatever field they go into.” The team is made up of all juniors, so they are looking to spark interest in the younger grades. For anyone interested, Bolles said, “I think the number one thing is that you don’t have to know anything about robotics to get involved. I think if you have a real passion and interest, go for it and you’ll learn what you have to along the way. I came in with a firm grasp in math technology fields, but there are certainly students who don’t have that. One of our strongest members is planning on going into journalism.” Davis said her favorite thing about the team is getting to work with others. “You don’t get to do that a lot in a typical classroom setting,” she said. “You collaborate not only with teammates, but also other teams around the region and now around the world.” The VEX Worlds 2017 will take place April 19 through 22 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. The Blue Streak Robotics team is currently fundraising for the team to go, and more information on how to help is available at www.bluestreakrobotics.org.
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