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CHS and MLHS robotics teams kickoff 2016 season

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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High school robotics teams from all over Spokane County, including Cheney and Medical Lake, attended the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition 2016 season kickoff, Saturday Jan. 9, at Eastern Washington University.

At the event teams received their kits which included motors, sensors, control system parts and a robot radio. As in previous seasons, teams are challenged to build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. They also create a logo for their team and raise funds through sponsorships.

In 2015, Medical Lake Circuit Breakers were 36th out of 152 teams in the Pacific Northwest District and a district championship finalist. The Cheney Blackhawks were 144th in the district.

"We're really excited to get going this year," CHS robotics adviser Cevin Whipple said. "We've already got T-shirts made and we're gearing up for the season"

Besides receiving their kits, teams got a first look at the game for this year's competition — FIRST Stronghold, where an alliance of three teams uses their robots to capture their opponents' tower.

Robots start in the neutral zone and may have one boulder each while additional boulders are added on the midline. Alliances may place a "spy-bot" in their opponents' courtyard with a human controller to signal the intelligence activities of their opponents.

In the first 15 seconds of the match, robots are autonomous and earn points by breaching one of their opponents' outer defenses and scoring boulders into their opponent's' towers. Alliances will select three of their defense positions before the match begins while one is permanent and one is chosen periodically by the audience.

During the 2 minute, 15 second tele-operated period, human drivers control their robots to retrieve boulders, overcome opponents' defenses and throwing boulders into towers. A team may have only one robot in their courtyard to defend their tower.

After the alliance makes enough boulders in the tower, the opponent's flag drops and teams have robots surround the tower to capture it. Teams can have their machine climb the tower to earn more points. If an alliance captures the tower at the end of the match, their flag gets raised, earning more points.

The competition will also have a medieval theme to it, encouraging teams to dress up in clothes from the Middle Ages.

"I knew it was going to be a capture the flag/tower defense game," Whipple said. "We're already coming up with concepts to get our boulders into the tower."

Whipple said the hardest part about robotics club is raising funds, though the high school and the district have supported the club over the years.

"It would be nice if FRC was considered a varsity sport so these kids could letter in it," he added.

Like Whipple, Mikal Deiatrick, driver for the Medical Lake Circuit Breakers team, knew Stronghold was going to involve capturing a tower or a flag. He compared the competition t6 a "video game."

"The medieval theme seems like a good way to have a bigger, unified theme for the competition," Deiatrick said.

For the next six weeks both teams will work hard to create their robot. Whipple said he will probably put in 600 hours and students will work until 6-8 p.m. on weeknights and 20 hours on the weekend.

"Most of it is making a working robot, coming up with different ideas and distilling them," Whipple said.

Deiatrick said Medical Lake will work on their machine five days a week, with two rest days.

"We're very much looking forward to the new game, and the competition setting," Deiatrick said. "You have no idea what's going to happen, everyone is super excited."

Deiatrick added that this year's team has around 30 members.

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Original Publication Date: January 14, 2016

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