LHS’s Royal Robotics attends FIRST Robotics Kickoff for 2018 season

The 2016 Royal Robotics team. (File photo courtesy Royal Robotics)

The annual FIRST Robotics kickoff announcing this year’s specific competition was held at Mountlake Terrace High School on Saturday.

More than 40 robotics teams gathered in the MTHS gym to watch a live-stream of FIRST Robotics organizers in New Hampshire announcing the game’s specific rules and regulations. Teams gathered at MTHS include Edmonds-Woodway’s MASH Robotics, MTHS’s Team Chill Out and Lynnwood High School’s Royal Robotics.

Weeks earlier, robotics teams viewed a small teaser of what would be the full clip streamed on Saturday. The competition is themed around vintage and retro video games, called “FIRST Power Up,” and the field will be set up with goals that coordinate with the theme.

For example, teams will have the opportunity to retrieve and score with “power cubes” similar to the cubes in Nintendo’s “Super Mario” video game. With these cubes, students can use them for game advantages, such as “levitate,” which allows a robot a “free climb” and, in turn, more points.

Students now have less than six weeks to fully build and prepare a robot according to FIRST Robotics rules and restrictions. Competitions begin in February, according to the FIRST Robotics website.

After they were shown the video, teams dispersed into separate rooms to collaborate and brainstorm with one another. There, they watched a second video explaining the guidelines within each gamefield and robot.

Afterward, teams were handed their “kit of parts” containing specific tools and materials they will use to build their new robot.

Eugene Seubert, vice president of the MTHS Robotics team, said he expects this game to be significantly different from competitions he’s participated in during years past. He said this is primarily due to having to balance defense and offense with the robot. In this year’s game, when one team scores, the other team can’t score at the same time.

Last year, Seubert said he saw a lot of games result in over 400 points, but with this year, he said he doesn’t expect any to break 100.

Royal Robotics coach Bradley Nelson, of Lynnwood High School, said this year’s competition “looks simpler, but really isn’t.”

Because the game itself has simpler rules in terms of scoring, Nelson said his team will have to focus on strategic build and play. He said that timing and strategic choices of which element of the game to play at which point will also be a critical role in the competition overall.  

“It will definitely be a strategist’s game on display,” Nelson said.

Different teams will be preparing for the competition in different ways. Seubert said during the first two weeks, the MTHS team will be allocating time for collaboration among the students. He also said that breakout groups within the overall team will assemble to focus on different areas of the robot.

By the end of the second week, Seubert said MTHS typically sees a working prototype of what their robot will be at the competition.

Nelson said that Royal Robotics meets six days a week at either LHS or the former Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood. The team annually builds a field mirroring the upcoming competition that they take advantage of to practice.

Seubert, a senior at MTHS, has participated in the FIRST Robotics competitions every year since he was a freshman, he said. Even with four years experience, he said he still feels the “hype” from having the competition announced at the annual kickoff.

“It’s exciting to see the challenges we have ahead,” he said.

He also said he’s excited to participate in the competitions one last time as a student before he graduates.

“Imagine a high school football team and the excitement and the passion,” Seubert said, “but 40 times that.”

–By Stephi Smith

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