By MEGHAN McCOY
Although the Pine Island Crew had some glitches during the 2nd Annual Great Robot Uprising, the team earned three awards Saturday afternoon at Mariner High School, which included the highest honor, due to their determination.
Nine teams competed in The First Tech Challenge, Ring It Up, tournament in the Mariner High School gym this past weekend. Those teams included the Marinerds – Pine Island Crew and Tech Warriors from Mariner High School, Wiredcats from Estero High School, Wolftrack from South Fort Myers High School, Spartans and Young Spartans from Edison Collegian, Stingrays and Robo Rays from Seacrest County Day School in Naples and Tarpon Robotics from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda.
Adam Nowicki became the lead director of the newly formed Southwest Florida League over the summer after Michael Coleman, Florida First Tech Challenge Affiliate Partner, called him and shared how impressed he was with the robotics program at Mariner High School.
There are currently 11 teams that make up the Southwest Florida League.
Since the robotics team began at Mariner High School, Nowicki has spent endless hours writing grants and training individuals to create an interest for robotics.
“It’s been awesome,” Nowicki said of the increased interest in robotics. “Look at how many lives are impacted by this.”
The Pine Island Crew arrived at Mariner High School at 6 a.m. Saturday to set up for the tournament. The opening ceremony kicked off around 10 a.m. with the games following.
The gym came to life Saturday morning and into the afternoon as the crowd cheered for their robotics team to score the most points.
The students had to design and create a robot that could grab ahold of rings and place them on different levels of pegs to earn points. The Pine Island Crew began designing its robot in August.
The competition began Saturday with a 30-second autonomous period, which was followed by two alliance teams participating against two other alliances during 2-minute matches.
The autonomous period tested the teams’ ability to program their robots to grab a ring on its own and place it on the peg that contains an IR Beacon. Although the Wolftrack came extremely close a few times, no team accomplished the task for 50 points.
The students stood behind a 12×12 diamond-shaped field as they grabbed their remote controls prior to the beginning of the 2-minute match. Once the countdown three, two, one was enthusiastically called, the robots came to life as they drove to two different dispensers containing their colored rings. As the robots neared the dispensers, various styled arms grabbed one or two rings to take to the center peg on the field.
The team earned five points for each ring placed on the first level, 10 points for each ring placed on the second row and 15 points for each ring placed on the top row peg. If the team had three pegs, either horizontally, diagonally or vertically across filled with rings they earned an extra 30 points.
The challenge also included an opportunity to win end game points by working with their alliance. Within the final 30 seconds of the 2-minute period, the teams had the option of dropping the ramp they built to lift their alliance off the ground. If the robot was lifted at least 1 inch, they earned 30 points and for each additional inch they earned five points.
Nowicki said Saturday’s competition provided a positive experience for all the students involved. He said everyone – including the judges, referees, the emcee and coaches – were all volunteers Saturday.
The all-day tournament ended a little after 4 p.m. with an awards ceremony.
The group of six students who make up the Pine Island Crew earned the Rockwell-Collins Innovate Award, the Inspire Award and first place for winning the last competition with their alliance the Wolftrack.
Team captain junior Gerilynn Rossman said the Innovate Award is given to the team that has the most unique design for its robot. She said it’s basically the creativity award for thinking outside of the box.
The Inspire Award, Gerilynn said, is an all-around great team award, which is the highest award one team can get. She said team spirit, outreach efforts, performance and the engineering notebook all play into the award.
“As the captain, I am very proud of the team, everyone stayed level.” Gerilynn said.
Although the day had many ups and downs for the Pine Island Crew, the teammates continued to strategize and find ways to keep in the game.
“It was nerve-racking sitting in the stands because you want your team to do well,” junior Megan Tedle said.
Junior Jasmine Singh, who also sat in the stands, said their cheering helped motivate the team when they had difficulties.
At one point in the competition, sophomore Michael Schulte said a pin fell out of its place, which in turn made the ramp fall. He said after talking to other teams of what they could do, it was easy to fix.
Another problem occurred later in the competition when the arm of their robot quit working.
Junior Zach Scribner said they still did not know what happened after the competition was over. All of a sudden two motors stopped working, he said.
The team continued to compete without the working motors by playing defense.
Scribner said all of a sudden the arm began working again, which led to the Pine Island Crew placing rings on the top of the peg winning the game.
He said his favorite part of the entire day was at that very last moment when their robot starting working again.
Gerry Rossman, the coach of the team, said he is very proud of The Pine Island Crew Saturday.
“I’m very proud of them, the Inspire Award is the best you can get,” he said.
Although the Pine Island Crew is in the running for the state championship, which will be held in March at Embry Riddle University, Nowicki said the 24 top ranked teams in the state of Florida will be determined at the end of January.
In addition to the tournaments, the teams also receive a judge score, as well as a score for the video the team is responsible for making.
Sophomore Garrett Bryan was responsible for video taping the match Saturday afternoon. The video counts for 25 percent of their overall score.
The entire team pieces the video together, which includes tournaments, building, outreach programs, as well as any other activity conducted as a team with the robot.