And they’re off: Skagway and Ketchikan students maneuver their robots for a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, and the three Skagway High kids make adjustments to “Try Again.” Courtesy of Vivian Meyer, Skagway School

Skagway FTC robotics Team Sprocketoids takes Southeast again

Faster, efficient robot being primed for State

By JEFF BRADY

For the second straight year, Skagway’s high school robotics Team Sprocketoids is the champion of Southeast Alaska, winning the Inspire Award at the FIRST Technical Challenge (FTC) regional qualifier in Hoonah on Feb. 8.
Eleven teams from Juneau, Ketchikan, Mt. Edgecumbe, Hoonah and Skagway competed in the two-day event. The Inspire Award was given to the team that was a top contender for all judging categories and a strong competitor on the field.
“The Sprocketoids impressed the judges with their robotic design presentation, engineering notebook, gracious professionalism, and robotic performance,” said Skagway Coach Vivian Meyer. “The competition was fierce.”
After the qualification matches, the Sprocketoids joined forces with Ketchikan and knocked out the Juneau-Mt. Edgecumbe team in a two-out of-three match. The Skagway- Ketchikan team ended up receiving the performance-based award for the Finalist Alliance, with Mt. Edgecumbe’s other two teams earning the Winning Alliance Award.
The Sprocketoids move on to the 2013 Ring It Up Championship in Anchorage March 8-9.
The Sprocketoids will be presenting along with the FLL team at a fundraiser at the Eagles on March 2 (see WP&YR ad on page 4), and again at the Skagway School on March 4 in the high school wing.
During a demonstration for students before heading to Hoonah earlier this month, team members explained their robot design and then took the robot into the practice pit.
The three students produced a required notebook log for each practice about what tasks they planned each day, and reflections on how things performed, said Rosalie Westfall.
“It’s a very big part (of the competition), she said. “It helps so you can look back and see what you’ve already done and see if something worked or something didn’t.”
Alexandra Weber showed the initial design phases with treads, and then adding white wheels to support the treads.

The robot, which has been nicknamed “Try Again,” must start out fitting in an 18 inch cube to qualify. The students designed and constructed a long robotic arm that folds out and can work the main mission – play a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with round plastic donuts on a wall of PVC pipe.
Riley Westfall said they worked with five different arm designs before they came up with one with an elbow, the ability to turn, and also light and short enough to perform well.
In the pit, the robot first has 30 seconds to get a weighted ring on a smaller pipe in the corner. That movement is pre-programmed. Then a team member takes the controller and works the robot to move lighter and weighted rings on the large Tic-Tac-Toe model in the middle of the pit.
The goal is to rack up as many points as possible in two minutes, and get three in a row for an extra bonus of 30 points. At competition, two teams are paired to perform together.
“A lot of it is talking to others to find out what their robots can or can’t do,” Meyer said.
The combined team competes against another pair on the other side of the pit. Teams are randomly paired up during the qualifying round. Then they are ranked, and alliances are formed for the final round.
Where it becomes interesting is when teams try to block the other, and that was the Edgecumbe team’s strategy. But the Skagway team was able to get a ring on during each of its programmed runs, Meyer said, and also score a Tic-Tac-Toe. Their highest score was 70.
To get ready for State, the team is adding “armor” to keep rings from dropping into the robot mechanism, and a ramp system for accessing its Tic-Tac-Toe wall.
And more speed and efficiency.
“Riley figured out by changing the sprocket ratios that our robot is much faster,” Meyer said. “We have also added encoders to the motors so we can program by using degrees of rotation instead of time (which changes due to strength of battery) which should make our autonomous program more reliable.”
To see both the FTC and FLL teams in action, check them out at the Eagles fundraiser on March 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. There will be ice cream and a silent auction to support both teams. The state champion FLL team is going to World Festival at the end of April in St. Louis, and the FTC team is hoping to get there as well with a solid performance at State. A separate online auction sponsored by the Eagles is also running on Facebook until noon on March 2 to help raise money for the teams’ travel and equipment needs. The FTC team also will present at the school on March 4.