Arrowtech's team number, 8692.

Arrowtech Robotics Places Thirteenth at Final Competition

Renton High's Arrowtech robotics team aims not only to create machines for competition, but to build personal character.

January 18, 2018

On December 16th, Renton High School’s Arrowtech robotics team competed in their final meet of the season. The First Tech Challenge (FTC) Feynman Interleague Competition was held at the Amazon Doppler Building in Downtown Seattle, where forty different school and community organization teams battled it out for the chance to move on to regional, state, and even international level championships. As part of the FTC program, each year, a new competition format is introduced, complete with unique objectives, scoring opportunities, and a theme. This year’s challenge was FIRST Relic Recovery.

During a match, two drivers who control the robot and a coach who directs and advises the drivers compete to score as many points as possible. A match split in to two main sections: the autonomous period, and driver control. During the autonomous period, a premade program is launched and the robot operates independently. However, a successful autonomous program is much easier said than done. Depending on the team’s specific objective, a robot may need to be able to sense distance, color, or even scan and interpret coded messages.

The driver control is largely strategic and requires effective communication between the coach and drivers. Scoring points can include placing cubes called glyphs in specific columns, grabbing plastic relics and reaching over the field wall to place it in a designated zone, or balancing on a platform. To achieve these, robots are equipped with arms, clamps, pushers, motors, sensors, and many more complex parts.

Evidently, success on a robotics team does not come easy, and requires dedication, skill, and trial and error. Hideo Hamamoto, the Admiral, or highest level of leadership within the club, says, “What I enjoy about robotics is when it’s crunch time and you get to see what you can accomplish in a small amount of time.” To achieve all the tasks necessary to build and operate the robot, each member’s role is crucial, especially because Arrowtech is relatively small in comparison to other High School teams. In explaining the interactions within the team, Ethan Jurado, one of the co-captains of the team said, “They’re all there to help me out if I need help. But as an individual, I try to manage everyone and make sure they’re on track to get things done.”

Being part of the robotics team has real implications for the future of many of the members. “It would impact my future by opening up new opportunities.” Says Christopher Quiton, a member of Arrowtech. Even if he chooses not to pursue a career in STEM, Chris explained how the experiences of robotics will be beneficial in any field he chooses. Jurado echoed similar sentiments. “Me specifically, being the captain of a robotics team, that’s something colleges would look for, so it could greatly affect what college I could get in to.” Robotics opens doors for students to explore fields that were nonexistent a generation ago, and prepares them for careers in a modern technological world.

In speaking of the value of the robotics program, Arrowtech’s adviser William Rahr said, “It’s one of those chances where you can work with people in engineering and teamwork and innovation and creativeness. So it’s fun to watch all of that develop and work.” The vast majority of the team members did not join teams with prior knowledge of programming or construction. They learned along the way,simultaneously honing their problem solving and teamwork skills. Another valuable lesson that is instilled in all who are part of the FTC program is Gracious Professionalism, where participants are encouraged to respect and value the work of others. This philosophy was evident at the competition, where regardless of which team the participants belonged to, cheers and encouragement between opponents contributed to the positive, upbeat tone throughout the day.

Arrowtech ultimately ended the competition in thirteenth place, which although it wasn’t enough to progress farther in the season, was a vast improvement over seasons prior. Regardless of final placements, the life lessons and experiences team members take away each season are far more valuable than any trophy or title. Rahr states, “The reward is watching them take a challenge, design a solution, and tear it all apart because it didn’t work, and then keep going at it, and all the renovations and the reiterations of what they’re doing. It’s amazing watching them have the tenacity to take it all on.”

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