Robot team faces deadline


The 37-pound unfinished robot (right) is estimated to be 110 pounds upon completion. The fully functional robot is powered by two 80-amp motors, operated with a joystick and equipped with an emergency shutoff switch. Photos by Nic Olson

Machine must climb pyramid and toss discs

EWU robotics team prepares for an event. Photo Olson
Dennis Schweikhardt (second from right, above) guides students as they learn how to program their robot. He has also been teaching graphics, budgeting, presenting and marketing. Photo Nic Olson

The Medical Lake First Robotics team is meeting three times a week to prepare for the upcoming robotic competition, but wish they had more time to get ready, according to team mentor Ken Guidry.

“I would love to be given maybe two more weeks,” Guidry said during a weekly First Robotics team meeting held in Medical Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The Medical Lake First Robotics Competition team has 16 high school students and four mentors who meet every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to prepare for the regional First Robotics Competition. All teams competing in the regional event have six weeks starting from Jan. 2 to build and program a robot to play in the games.

“I look forward to Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays a lot more now,” said Medical Lake high school sophomore Logan Earl. “I’m learning a lot.”

Ultimate Ascent, a flying disc game similar to disc golf, was announced on Jan. 2 as the 2013 robotic competition game. There are 42 teams registered to compete on campus to have the chance to attend the championship games in St. Louis. This year, two teams are coming from as far away as Mexico.

Rules of the competition require the robots to be sealed and tagged on Feb. 19 and not opened until a few days before the games begin on April 5 and 6.

Climbing, disk-throwing robot. Photo Olson
The 37-pound unfinished robot (above) is estimated to be 110 pounds upon completion. The fully functional robot is powered by two 80-amp motors, operated with a joystick and equipped with an emergency shutoff switch.

“We have a working robot,” Guidry said. “Next is to try and achieve functions that get points because a working robot rolling around on the floor doesn’t get points. It allows you to be a team that built a robot, but it doesn’t get points.”

According to Logan, who is the engineering lead of the group, the team’s strategy is to build a robot that can climb the pyramid assembly in the competition and manually dump Frisbees to get points.

The team has already built a mock-up of the pyramid obstacle and how they plan to climb it to get points. According to Guidry, who was a robotic inspector for last year’s competition, it is pretty good if a rookie team is able to have their first robot perform functions that get points.

“If we get this [climbing] successful, then we’ll move to throwing. If we get to the challenge … and it doesn’t throw a Frisbee, that’s fine as long as we’ve achieved something,” Guidry said.

In addition to having an engineering portion of the team, several club members are assigned to the business side, where they focus on marketing, finance, design and safety.

The team’s business lead Charleen McDaniel said, “Right now we’re focusing on everything that we’re going to put our logo on, and things that we plan to give away.”

Charleen said that the business side’s biggest obstacle so far is not enough time. “We have to start from nothing, so we don’t really have something to base everything off of like other teams do. We don’t have all the fundamentals.”

Being the first year that a Medical Lake team will compete in the First Robotic Competition, the rookie team has designed a poker themed logo and chip set from scratch.

Charleen said that the poker chips are intended for people who really helped the team. They will be given to “anyone who sent us a scholarship, who gave us support, like teachers and parents, and for the judges.”

The team also plans to hand out cards to people who visit their booth during the competition.

“This year they are learning from scratch, but next year they will learn more about how to develop upon what is already built,” Guidry said.

Christian Hansen, First Robotics Competition chair and EWU associate dean of computing and engineering science, said, “We are working on filling all of our volunteer positions. We still have many opportunities for volunteering. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Dale Garraway, our [First Robotics Competition] volunteer coordinator or register online at”

The regional competition will be held at Reese Court on April 5 and 6, where the games will be open to the public with no admission charge.