After a rebuilding year, the George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa robotics is competing today and Saturday at the Hub City Regional Competition of the FIRST Robotics Competition in Lubbock.
Richard Lindner, the New Tech robotics team mentor, said the squad is sponsored by SM Energy.
Chris Caddel, regional director for West Texas of FIRST, said there are about 1,000 students competing on 41 teams today and Saturday from Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Kansas to name a few.
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
The robots range from 50 to 60 pounds to 120 pounds. Students compete in an athletic style game and six teams at a time compete. This year has a video game theme, but Caddel said new themes are developed every year.
The challenge for the Hub City Regional contest was announced in January and students have six weeks from that time to work on the robot.
After that, the robot is sealed up in a plastic bag with a numbered tag on it, but they are allowed to work on a certain part of the robot that is outside of that. The 10 students on the team have named their robot Frankenlift. The robot is a little more than 5 feet tall.
If all goes well, the group moves on to the world championships April 18 through April 21 in Houston.
Seventeen-year-old junior Christopher Ramirez said the programming stands out; the design is good, so he is confident the group will do well.
Ramirez said the team appropriated spare parts from “anywhere and everywhere.”
“We figured out what worked and put them all together and made sure the design worked through and then tested it over and over and over. If it failed we tested it again,” he added.
Lindner said something that’s challenging about this competition is that the robot doesn’t come out of a kit.
“Every year the thing that’s the same is the driving part of the robot and the circuitry, but it’s still complex. It’s not really a kit you’d gather in your living room. The rest of it is just made out of raw materials; just aluminum and motors and wiring and they just figure it out on their own, so it really is just a real engineering challenge for the kids,” Lindner said.
Sixteen-year-old junior Hailie Zundt brought 17-year-old junior Jade Green into the group. Green said you don’t have to be particularly good at math or science to be on the team.
“As long as you’re pretty creative and you have good ideas and you share with the group and you’re good at building things … you could probably do it,” Green said.
She added that she enjoys all the trial and error and how students get to see what works and what doesn’t and put things together that you probably wouldn’t think would go together.
Ramirez said he enjoyed watching everything evolve from nothing to what the team has now. He added that the team logged about 30 hours over six weeks to put the robot together.
Lindner said the team didn’t compete last year because one of their key members had gone off to MIT.
At the beginning of the year, before the robotics season kicks off in January, those interested in being on the team meet once a week to see what their skills are and talk about ideas. Once the season starts, they meet every day after school, but Lindner said it doesn’t add up to that much because some of the students work and have other obligations.
Lindner said the students are a “very hardworking group.”
“I think it’s very challenging to do this complex of a project with such a small group,” he said.
He added that they have participated in events where there were teams of 40 or 50 students sponsored by large corporations.
“This is truly done 100 percent by our students and that’s what it’s supposed to be. This is truly a student-run enterprise,” Lindner said.