SJA Robotics Team Prepares for Competition

Robotics ThumbnailST. JOHNSBURY- The St. Johnsbury Academy robotics team, Tech Storm FRC-2523 is getting ready for another year of competition. The team competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition and this year it's all about moving power.



Jim Baker, the STEM Educator says, "It's a game where it's based off an 8-bit arcade game and what we're doing is we're trying to move these power cubes, which are basically just a milk crate that's been covered in pieces of fabric."

The team of 17 students all have different jobs in order to help build the robot. Katherine Wang an international student says, "We have people that are working on the computer stuff, and people that are doing the actual assembling, and people that are working on the media stuff."The robotics team goes through an intense process of building and problem solving when assembling the robot. The team has six weeks from the time they find out what the game is and what the robot is expected to do until the FIRST company comes and takes the robot to the competition venue.

Senior William Dimas says it takes time to find out what works and what doesn't. "It started out we didn't have any chains on it, those wire things I don't think were in the plan. There were a lot of cables, a lot of pulleys. And we tried it and it just didn't work, and it was a dark day." But the team persisted, "we thought of all these crazy ideas to fix it and none of them worked, and then we thought well chains might work."

The team came in on the weekends to have more time to work instead of just hours after-school. On February 18th, the last full day of work, the team had some last-minute repairs before sending the robot off to competition. Jack Luna the teams head programmer said, "the gearbox was right on the motor and the speed the motor was going, was above the speed the sensor could sense." So naturally the team went to work and take off some parts, so they could get at the gearbox and make adjustments as needed. An hour later, the robot was running smoother than ever.
And robotics club isn't just about building robots and going to a competition, it's about building friendships, and life skills that will carry on into the future. Wang says she has the opportunity to meet new people at her school, "I get to know so many different people, so many different kinds of people like from my normal friends. And as an international student here, I get to work with all the local students and other international students. And to get to communicate with them and to share our ideas."

Dimas says the bonds built in the club are different from anywhere else. "On sports, you kind of learn to trust each other and theater you learn to expect what it is. There's things we do like in the machine shop if someone's not doing what they're supposed to, someone's going to get hurt." Dimas says his favorite time of the club is the first and last few days. "Because in the beginning you have these wild ideas and I think when we came up with this it looked nothing like it does now. And in the end, you get this. You realize how far you've come from scribbles on the whiteboard to suddenly there's an entire robot in front of you. It's mind-boggling to see something be made out of nothing."

Baker says he his favorite part of teaching STEM and robotics is starting from nothing and ending up with something. "I love seeing us come from a concept, an idea, to a CAD model, to a real robot. And seeing what the kids learn in this process of going through." The team is set to take the competition floor in at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine from March 22nd-March 24th and again at Revere High School in Revere, Massachusetts on April 2nd-4th. If the team does well at both competitions, they will head to the district championship at the University of New Hampshire.

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