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The Robots are Taking Over

Forest Hills Eastern is all charged up for the next robotics season! This year, teams are challenged to stack traffic cones and cubes on poles and pedestals across the game field. Team co-captain Ben Gates (‘23) says that in contrast to previous years, “The game pieces aren’t symmetrical or easy to manipulate, making this year’s game particularly hard.”

Furthermore, the team has to reevaluate its safety, because this year’s robot has a 5-foot long arm. Ben says, “We don’t want to uppercut someone or decapitate them.” When robots become complex in their functions, the risk of malfunction or injury increases significantly, which is an issue if the robot has a 5-foot-long arm. Unfortunately, the team could not give us more insight into the mechanics of the robot due to confidentiality, but we will hear more once the robot will be revealed at the first competition.

It is the most challenging time of the year, and team captain Aiden Engvall (‘23) has his hands full with managing the team. Aiden stated, “The hardest task is to get everyone on the team a task and oversee all the projects that people work on simultaneously.” With everyone at their limit, more hands are always welcomed. Aiden emphasized, “We appreciate the support we get from our parents, who came to build the new practice field alongside us.”

Robotics isn’t solely a work-until-you-pass-out challenge. “The robotics team is like a family, and I see my parents less than the club,” according to Ben Gates. It is a team effort and all fields of engineering are interconnected. Gates and leading programmer, senior Ishan Sinha, agree that there are certain challenges, such as “blocking another robot, similar to defense in basketball. All sides work together in making such a complex interaction work.”

Competitions bring all STEM fields together. Ben and Ishan revealed, “that we will need to program the robot to know where it is, but also how the building team needs to construct the mechanism.” Adding on to that: ”You don’t want to build something that is hard to program or requires a complex mechanism to fulfill basic tasks.”

On the first two days after kick-off, the team works tirelessly to read the delivered rules and find loopholes or strategies. 

The first steps of any competition involve:

  • Planning a strategy with potential loopholes from the rules
  • Breaking up into idea groups and deciding what functions the robot must or could have. All the ideas are typed into a spreadsheet and compared, to be evaluated later.
  • The last step before the prototypes are built involves the actual design concepts of a robot. Once enough designs have been made, prototypes are created to test and weed out the impractical ideas.

At the end of the day, “robotics gives a sense of fulfillment and confidence,” says Aiden. “It is a strong community, where one can build friendships and build knowledge that you can’t get in school.” This goes as far as college, where “Some classes in design and engineering seemed like a joke compared to the skills that one acquires in robotics,” according to Maya Gates, a current sophomore in college who participated in robotics.

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