Stage is Set for Huntington Robotics in NYC

By Alicia Bermudez and Ronny Reyes

Huntington Robotics Team 5016 will compete in the New York City Regional For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition on March 10, team captain Jacob Strieb said.

The NYC Regional takes place at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and is one of the many events in the 2016 FIRST STRONGHOLD Competition. For the event, high school teams from around the world have to build a robot that will take part in a medieval-themed contest.

“It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get,” Brooke Blew, the Marketing Programs Manager at FIRST, said.

On Jan. 9, teams were shown the FIRST STRONGHOLD game playing field and received a kickoff kit with various tools to build the robot, but no instructions were included, Blew said.

The goal of the FIRST STRONGHOLD contest is to breach the enemy’s territory, lower the opponent’s defenses by throwing a ball through several openings in their tower eight times, and climbing a bar to the top of the tower, securing victory for the team, Strieb explained.

“There’s a lot going on in this competition,” Strieb said.

Constructing a robot for competitions like this is no easy task, Michael LiBretto, president of the Stony Brook University Robot Design Team, said. Robots range in complexity, and the time that it takes to build these machines depends on what the goal is, how skilled the builders are and how hard they work.

Lil’ cute guys that fit on your desk can take a day or a month, depending on what you want it to do,” LiBretto said.

The teens of Team 5016, based in Huntington High School, only have six weeks, as per FIRST rules, and are spending around six hours after school building the body and writing the code for their robot.

“They’re self taught, self driven, and they can diagnose problems well on their own,” Michael Ferreira, a teacher and advisor to the team, said.

One of those problems was learning to properly code the pneumatics for the robot, something that they had never done before. Ferreira explained that pneumatics is the technology of using compressed air for movement, which would allow the robot to aim its shooter and lift itself, the two things it will need to do in order to win.

The code, written in JavaScript, was finally up and running when Head Programmer Matthew “Matty Pneumatic” Wildermuth fixed a simple coding error after a long time of hard work and stress.“You can make very simple mistakes that make you feel dumb, but, once you fix them, it can make you feel like a genius,” Wildermuth said.    

Another element the high schoolers will add to their robot’s design is digital vision, which will allow the robot to perform an automatic targeting sequence on its own.

An LED ring around the camera will trigger a light team that will bounce off the scoring area’s retro-reflective glass, enabling the robot to access aim accurately, Strieb explained.

“In the meantime, we’ve got a manual targeting system setup where you just line it up to a little rectangle that overlays the camera image, and you can manually line it up and shoot,” he said.

This year’s competition will be different from the previous ones because the robotic matches will be driven not only by play action, but also by how the field changes, Blew said.

“It’s meant to have the feeling of a live action video game,” she said.