It all started with tiny Lego robots. Then it moved to smaller robots made of metal. Now, Marceline High School’s Black Knight Robotics team is competing in the top tier of their sport.
On March 14-16, the team traveled to Hale Arena in Kansas City for their first ever FRC competition with their frisbee-slinging robot. But the journey to the big show started much earlier.
“FRC is a totally different program than FTC, which we had done before,” explained Head Coach Chris Rollison. “This is a national program where each team has the exact same amount of time to work on their robot.”
Rollison continued: “Kickoff for this season was the first Saturday in February where we picked up the kit and watched the training videos. We brought the kit back, assembled the drive train and had a certain amount of time to build it. There is a bag and tag date where every FRC team has to put their robot in a bag, with an official serial number, and you cannot touch it. This does not matter when your competition is. If you have more than one, you have to bag and tag the robot there until the next competition.”
FRC stands for FIRST Robotics Competition, and is a nationally-sanctioned robotic, scientific and engineering organization. FIRST governs both FTC (FIRST Technology Competition) and FRC.
“It started with FTC, and we even did that this year,” said Rollison. “There you design an 18x18x18 inch robot. In FRC, the robot can be up to five feet tall, can weigh 120 pounds, and the additional cost for parts is limited to $4000.”
Rollison continued: “It can get really expensive, really fast. We are only $300 over in sheet metal and parts. We are starting a major fundraiser looking for sponsors and support to fund the team. We would love to get an approximately $15,000 budget.”
This years game was called “Ultimate Ascent” and is played on a level, flat 27x54 foot field. The robots must be able to operate autonomously, as well as by an operators remote control. Each game features two alliances of three robots, and the goal is to shoot your frisbee into the four goals, scoring points. The team with the most points at the end of the two minute and fifteen second matches wins.
“We had probably 14 kids involved in building the robot,” said Rollison. “This year we are almost totally sponsored by Moore Fans. It is great to have their continued support. They are always behind getting kids involved in math and science, and anything that could lead you down the engineering path in life.”
Moore Fans did more than financially aid the team, the company also provided engineers to lend their expertise to the kids. John Moore, Ryan Lodder, Matt Neil, Ken Jay and Drew Ward all pitched in to help.
Page 2 of 2 - “There is no limit on team size, and this is a very expensive project,” said Rollison. “We are grateful to our sponsors. This is comparable to a sports team, as far as expense. The kit itself was $6500, and the kit next year will be $5000. Each competition costs $5000, most of this is the cost to rent the arena. The kit of parts is mostly donated, and mostly consists of a basic frame and a few motors. The rest of the parts we have to buy.”
After all of their preparation, the team took their bagged up robot and prepared for the competition. FIRST does not simply judge based on how your robot plays the game; they also look to see the educational value of these projects.
“Not many subjects I have taken so far helped a lot on this, but I have an idea of some I want to take now,” said team member Kyla Swanson. “We had a basic robotics class in sixth grade where we got to build Lego robots.”