Ready, Set, Release the Robots: Robotics Team’s First Competitions Since March 2020

Ava Spurgeon, Staff Writer

Purple Haze, LASA’s resident robotics team, attended their first competitions since 2020 this spring. Their first one was in Channelview on March 12 and 13, followed by a competition in Amarillo the weekend of April 1. 

Senior and robotics team member Eddie Vane was inspired to join the robotics team after attending a LASA showcase while in middle school and seeing their impressive robots. Once Vane joined the team, he learned there were more steps to the robotics process than he initially thought. The team received their challenge instructions in January and then began the long process of creating the competition robot.

“We look through the handout and the rules to come up with all of the stuff we could possibly do,” Vane said. “Then we split off into groups and do brainstorming of possible things we could build to accomplish the challenge.”

According to Vane, the entire robotics team works in smaller groups that specialize in different aspects of creating the robot. Senior Larissa Borg, for example, works with the electronics team on wiring the robot.

“There are a lot of different roles,” Borg said. “I do electronics, so I do anything that involves wiring the robot. There’s also build, who is anyone who comes up with the concept of the robot, and then there’s programming.” 

Once the team decides on their roles and on their robot model, the team begins construction. Vane works on the build team to design parts.

“We do prototypes then vote on which prototype we want to go with,” Vane said. “Then [we] split off into teams and build everything, assemble it all together, then give it to electronics and code to let them make everything move.”

While the students have a procedure for building their robot, the format of the competition is more unknown. The judges’ requirements for the robots change every season.

“We get a game each year that we have to accomplish a goal to,” Borg said. “This year, we have to shoot a ball into two seperate goals, one goal which is much higher up, which gives more points. We also have to do vertically ascending monkey bars where we have to make our robot climb to the very last one.”

Vane was thankful for the three weeks between the competitions. The team had an opportunity to learn from mistakes in March and re-evaluate in time for April.

“We were using it as a shakedown to see everything that was going to work on our robot, and getting to actually stress test everything in a real competitive environment was really fun,” Vane said. “This time we’re actually going to get to show off everything our robot can do after we got to see everything that would break at the last one.”

After their first competition, the team reassessed and made changes to better prepare for their next one in Amarillo. The team said the Amarillo competition is particularly important because teams that do well in Amarillo progress to the state championship. 

“We work out kinks in the robot, so we look at footage from past competitions, and we see what we can improve on,” Borg said. “Last competition we did not do so well, so we knew what improvements we had to make, and we were able to improve those.” 

According to junior Mason Tateosian, the team wasn’t quite as prepared for their first competition in Channelview as they wished they could have been. Tateosian is the driver of the robot at the competitions they attend. 

“Because LASA moved schools this year we didn’t have a lot of time because we still had to set up the entire new shop, and so we were really pressed for time to get our robot finished,” Tateosian said. “We realized that our time management skills were not very present for the first competition, so we did a lot of planning and redoing and reformatted our process of how we did things.”

Despite the challenges they faced with the first competition, the team felt more confident about their competition in April, according to Vane. After reviewing their performance, they were able to rework their robot to fix certain problems they had noticed. 

“For our next one, I would say we’ve got cautious optimism,” Vane said. “There are a couple of kinks we’ve still got to work out, but compared to where we were before we went to Channelview, I would say we’re in a pretty good spot.” 

After the adjustments on their robot, the team placed sixth in the Amarillo competition and advanced to the State Championships, which took place the first week of April. Unfortunately, the team did not end up advancing to the World Championships, but Borg is glad to be on the team regardless. Borg said robotics competitions bring a unique opportunity for the students competing.

“Competition is honestly so much fun,” Borg said. “Personally, I’m not very athletic, so being able to build something and watch something you built win is amazing. It didn’t happen last time, but my first year in 2020, we ended up winning our competition, and that was a core memory for me. It’s ingrained in my life, that feeling of winning.”