Mad Rockers finalize components for competition robot

MADISON – The Robotics Team, nicknamed Mad Rockers, from Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools is practicing for two upcoming challenges in this advancing field.

Mad Rockers will compete in the Arkansas Regional Competition in Searcy, Ark. on April 1-2 and the Rocket City Regional Tournament in Huntsville at the Von Braun Center on April 8-9, Jonathan Bailey said. A teacher in Bob Jones Engineering Academy, Bailey sponsors the robotics team.

Both events are part of FIRST Robotics Competition or FRC. The game, or challenge, for this year is called “Rapid React.” The game changes every year to give the teams a new challenge, Bailey said.

“FIRST, an international robotics competition, focuses on preparing students for STEM careers and follows principles of gracious professionalism,” Bailey said. “Teams from all over the world compete together at regional events.”

Making FIRST unique, alliances form for three different robotics teams. “Teams are forced to cooperate while they compete. FIRST coined the term ‘Coopertition’ to describe this aspect of the competition,” Bailey said.

Alabama has 50-plus teams. More than 40 teams will enter the Rocket City Regional. “Robotics is somewhat popular but has been difficult to market since COVID-19,” Bailey said.

The team’s seniors are Team Captains Colby Bong and Malachi Allen, Senior Marketing Captain Alex Underwood, Senior Safety Captain Diane Pham, William Goins, Jonathan Gunasekaran, Riley Skillen and Dalton Shurtz.

Team juniors include Junior Software Captain Jeremiah Yang, Cyrus Boak, Williams Hu, Elise Adams and Alex Moultrie. The only sophomore is Aleks Vukosalvljevic. The team’s freshmen are Mitchell Okafor, Mason Puhalovic, David Gunasekaran, Elizabeth Lee and Donovan White.

“We use an engineering design process to design and build our robot, (starting) by analyzing rules for the game,” Bailey said. “Then, we brainstorm ideas and generate different concepts for the robot.”

With some ideas, the team prototypes different systems and assigns (students) to concurrently engineer different robot parts. Assembling the robot, the team tests and tweaks different systems.

The robots’ major tasks in 2022 are shooting large balls into a high goal and climbing a set of bars. Bob Jones has built a chassis, is finalizing two other robot systems, developing a faster loader and preparing for the Chairman’s Award.

Rapid React is based loosely on a transportation theme. Robots load ‘cargo’ (dodgeball-sized tennis balls), high or low. Robots score double points ‘driving’ themselves during the 15-second autonomous period.

FIRST robots are advanced and can cost up to $5,000, in addition to the kick-off kit. “Robots use a Roborio as the robot’s brain, radio, power distribution panel with fuses, motors and controllers and other systems,” Bailey said.

Bailey sees robotics’ potential as an academic class with problem-solving, geometry, physics and computer science. However, he hopes the competition team stays extra-curricular to keep the “bridge” between Bob Jones and James Clemens.

For more information, visit frc-events.firstinspires.org/2022/ALHU.

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