Jan. 4 was the kickoff for high schools across the nation competing in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition this year.
Two groups from the Austintown team attended the kickoff meetings to get the game and equipment they needed, including a group that included sophomore Bob Hudock and junior Austin Hall and his father Gary Hall, who traveled to Cleveland to pick up the package of materials and some of the equipment needed to assemble a robot. A second group attended a meeting in Austintown to learn what this year's game was going to be.
"Everyone came back that day and started by doing an inventory of what parts the team already had," said Bob Hudock.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Canfield High School Robotics Team members Jacob Duda and Jacob Brothers, both juniors, work on the frame of this year's robot entry. The team has until midnight March 18 to finish their build and come up with a robot that can throw a giant exercise ball into a netted goal.
Hudock said this year's robot can be a maximum of five feet tall and weigh a maximum of 120 pounds. It will have to pick up a two-foot wide exercise ball and throw it into a goal.
Teams have six weeks to design and built this year's entry. Entries must be completed by midnight on Feb. 18. The robots will be wrapped in plastic until the first regional competition at the end of March. The first competition will be held March 20 to 22 in Cleveland and the second regional event is March 27 to 29 at California College in Washington, Pa. If the team qualifies at regionals, they will head to a national competition in St. Louis, Mo.
"Last year the team qualified as rookies," Hudock said.
According to Hudock, team members worked till midnight on the last day and then stayed till 1:30 a.m. to clean up the lab at the high school.
To qualify as a rookie team was an achievement for the Canfield team, according to Hudock and was a great finish right out of the gate for their first year. Hudock said a lot of that has to do with the FIRST robotics competition requirements for gracious professionalism.
Teams in the competition often work together with teams with experience often mentoring new teams. The Canfield team spent a lot of time at Warren Harding and Austintown, who served as mentors last year. This year, with experience under their belt, the Canfield team is mentoring Cardinal Mooney in their rookie year.
"We are still up and coming, but we want to help Mooney along," Hudock said. "The mentoring and helping is all part of the program."
The CHS team also mentors the younger counterparts at the middle school and at Willow Creek Learning Center, who are involved in the FIRST Lego League (FLL). Those teams differ from the high school team with the middle school team using Legos to construct their robot. At the high school level, the team must design, find the right materials and built their robot from scratch.
Hudock said the sharing and caring doesn't end when the competition begins. At regionals teams often help one another, whether it is providing parts or giving advice.
Canfield received help funding their robot through grants including a NASA grant that enabled the team to enter the competition. Another grant from Delphi provided the funding to purchase special tools needed for the build. The team is always looking for financial help for purchasing parts and mechanisms. In addition to corporate sponsors, the team has been holding bake sales.
The ultimate goal is to make it to the nationals and the Canfield team is striving to make that happen by putting in the long hours during the building phase as they work towards that goal, Hudock said.
"We even came out on those cold days when school was canceled," Hudock said, "and we are still two days behind on our build compared to last year."