A number of the students on that team have since graduated, and soon the current team will start work on another robot, built to perform different tasks.
However, when the opportunity to compete in another competition that would allow them to use the robot they’d already built came up, the students jumped at the task — a shot at redemption.
“Everyone was interested in doing it,” said Riquelme. “We repaired the robot and raised a little money to make it over there.”
The kids raised about $500 to help cover registration and lodging costs; the school system kicked in the travel money, an act for which Riquelme expressed great appreciation.
Indiana schools tend to have strong robotics programs, observed Riquelme, so the competition at Southport would have been fierce. Southwestern’s was one of the only Kentucky teams in attendance.
These aren’t the kind of robots you might be used to seeing in old sci-fi movies, but rather controllable devices capable of performing specific functions.
There are two competitive aspects in which the robots perform. One is the basketball-like game, in which the robots shoot balls into hoops to score points. There are two competing “alliances,” made of robots from three different teams apiece, and points may be scored for cooperation between teams within these alliances.
A typical match lasts two minutes and 15 seconds. The higher the hoop, the more points a basket is worth.
“On the front of the robot is a four-foot-tall shooting mechanism that picks balls off the ground,” said Riquelme. “They roll up a big roller, and shoot into the air, into the hoop to score. (The robot) is on a base with a four-wheel drive train that gets us where we need to go.”
Not every year of the robotics competition revolves around basketball-like activity, but there is another aspect to the competition — balancing on a bridge that swings back and forth. Baskets score less points, but are easier to execute. The bridge is worth more points, but it’s harder and riskier. If the robot falls over, you’re out for the rest of the match.