It’s Robot-Building Season
February 26, 2023
For West Torrance Robotics, the first Saturday of the year is a big deal.
It’s the day FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) — organizer of the largest robotics competition in the United States — announces the “challenge” at their annual robot showdown. And after 30 years of competition, it seems like this year will be as formidable as ever.
In March, teams competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) will have to split into opposing “alliances” of three to play a game with their robots: mini fridge-sized metal apparatuses that, at the time of competition, will be months-in-the-making.
West High’s robot will have two operators: Ishan Samarasinghe (11) and Matthew McConnell (10); the rest of the club will stand by, cheering them on. Controlled by teams of humans operating from the sidelines, the robots will scramble to move cone and square pieces onto ledges of varying heights, earning points for each successful placement.
Near the end of the game, teams can earn bonus points if they balance all three of their robots on a see-saw. Once the timer runs out, the judge will announce a winner — shattering the dreams of three teams and vindicating the thousands of hours of work of three others.
Three months before that day, however, teams are left to wonder how. The objective is straightforward enough — but the way you choose to complete it isn’t. Only one thing is clear right now: It’s time to get to work.
At West High, that means different things for each member. As head of logistics Jordan Au (12) explained, the club is subdivided into four branches: design (using software to build prototypes of the robot), manufacturing (physically building the robot), programming (using Java to bring the machine to life), and business (running events and raising funds for the club). According to Au, there’s “bound to be something” for everyone to do in the club. Beyond the building and business connections, he’s made friends too.
As McConnell, head of manufacturing for the team, clarified, there is a sizable commitment: It “takes a lot of time to build a robot from scratch.” During the competitive season, the team meets every day; but McConnell reported that the club is still flexible and understands that not everyone can attend every meeting.
Both Au and McConnell have high hopes for this year’s competition — the team is on a mission to be FIRST.