By Jose Sulaiman Manzur ’20 and Harper McKerrow ’19, Robotics Co-Captains
The Tabor Academy Robotics Team is in full bloom, well into their second season, as they prepare to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). FTC is a competition open to students in grades 8-12 all around the world. The objective is to inspire a passion for STEM. This judged event consists of teams completing certain tasks with a robot competing to earn the most points. There are qualifying rounds leading to a state level competition and then to a regional and world competition.
This year’s design objectives are to build a 42-pound robot with an ability to lift itself, detect and identify objects on the field, navigate through the field, and place objects in an above ground cargo hold. The instructions for the competition dictate that some of the tasks must be automated, while some of them must be executed by team members using controllers; all of the tasks must be programmed.
The challenge was revealed to the public in September, but because Robotics is a winter co-curricular within Tabor’s trimester system, our team began work just before Thanksgiving break. Tabor currently sponsors two co-ed robotics teams, both of which are filled to capacity, consisting of 9 students with varying degrees of experience. Although each individual team is technically competing against the other, there exists a lot of cooperation between the two.
Within the teams, every member has one of the following roles: building, programming, computer-aided design, managing the electrical components, or writing the engineering notebook. Building is the most common job, consisting of assembling the design to which every member in the team has contributed to. Programming requires students to write instructions to be executed by the robot in the java programming language. Whoever manages the electrical components is in charge of wiring and configuring the motors, sensors, and servers the robot will use. Finally, writing the engineering notebook is a job that requires someone to keep track of all the progress throughout the season, compiling it in a neat and organized document.
Tucked in their dedicated space along the waterfront, the teams meet each afternoon, building, programming, problem-solving, and generally having the time of their lives. They are working hard to meet the project goals and to build the best robot possible.
The Robotics Program gives Tabor students the opportunity to experience what being an engineer is really like as they experience the successes and failures that make up any project. In the words of one of the rookie programmers, “Robotics gives us a challenge and an opportunity to work together to accomplish and surpass that challenge.”
The team is so grateful for all the support that has allowed us to transfer a grand idea in to the reality of Tabor Robotics. We have been given dedicated space, resources, and time as a full-fledged co-curricular option and are so excited for what the program will accomplish. We look forward to all the things to come in the coming years as we expand and build better and ever more efficient robots.
Watch one of our robotics teams test out the "firing" power of one of their robots!