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The Reflection

Gull Lake’s Twisted Devils host annual district robotics competition

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Between matches teams have the chance to bring their robot back to their pits and repair any damage it may have obtained during the competition. Photo by Marleigh Thorn

The weekend of Friday, March 17 marked the fifth year Gull Lake Area Robotics (GLAR) had the opportunity to host a FIRST district robotics competition. Hundreds of students from 40 different Michigan teams–including Gull Lake’s Twisted Devils–were in attendance.

Preparations for the event began after school on Thursday as FIRST volunteers and members of the Twisted Devils helped transform the high school gymnasium and cafeteria into a robo-SteamPunk stadium. At the same time, students from other teams arrived to set up their pits and ready their robots for the two-day long tournament.

While to most students, Friday’s 11:00 bell signaled the conclusion of second trimester exams, to the Twisted Devils, it signaled the start of the first of several matches to come.

The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.-FIRST Robotics Mission Statement

For those unfamiliar with the program, GLAR is an affiliate of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics–an organization designed to foster innovative thinking, encourage a mindset of teamwork and leadership, and prompt students to actively engage in science and technology with their peers and in their community.

According to its official site, FIRST Robotics competitions begin with a six week window during which students must design, build, and program an industrial sized robot with the capabilities to successfully play FIRST’s challenging field game against skilled opponents in the “Ultimate Sport of the Mind.”

In FIRST’s 2017 game, “Steamworks,” alliances consisting of three different teams work together with their robots and each other to power an airship on the playing field in a match lasting two and a half minutes, the first fifteen seconds of which all robots must run autonomously. Two alliances play on a field at the same time, and the alliance with the most points accumulated at the conclusion of the match wins that round.

Points are earned through preparing one’s airship for takeoff. To do so, teams can either collect fuel (objects similar in appearance to brightly colored whiffle balls) in their alliance’s boiler (a tower-like structure in the the corner of the

This year, two individuals from each alliance must work on the playing field during the match. Photo by Marleigh Thorn

playing field) or collect gears to be placed in the ship to spin its rotors.

“Not many people go for the fuel because it’s not really worth it,” said Twisted Devils sophomore and Safety team captain, Lindsey Bennett. “You get one point for every three fuel you get into the boiler, but if you get just one gear in the middle of the airship, you get sixty points.”

Similar to last year’s game, “Stronghold” alliances can earn additional points if their robot can climb and hang from a rope lowered from the airship near the end of the match.

During the preliminary rounds, a victorious match gains each team on the winning alliance ranking points, while tied games and fully functioning airships earns alliance members a single ranking point. It is one’s ranking points–not the gross score–that determines whether a team will be one of the eight alliance captains in the playoff rounds at the conclusion of the competition.

Bennett said she hopes the Twisted Devils will be able to lead an alliance through the finals and make friends with students from other schools. As Safety Team captain, she also hopes to procure the Industrial Safety Award.

“That gets us points towards a spot at States,” Bennett said.

The Gull Lake Area Robotics team finished the tournament in the playoffs as the fifth alliance captain. The team also took home the Industrial Safety Award and the District Engineering Inspiration Award.

Marleigh Thorn

My name is Marleigh Thorn. This is my third year on The Reflection staff, and I have the pleasure to be the Senior Editor. I have a passion for telling stories, and writing for our school newspaper allows me to do that. Being on The Reflection's staff has shown me how much I love sharing my words with others. I hope to continue reporting as I leave high school, and one day write for a major news agency.


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