UAHS FIRST Robotics Team competes in international competition

by Sophie Yang, ’19

Despite being less than a year old, the UAHS FIRST Robotics program qualified this year for the international FIRST Robotics competition in Detroit. A team of 18 student builders and programmers attended the event running from April 24 to April 28.

Sophomore Audrey Strickling, FIRST Robotics founder and captain, said receiving a ticket to the world competition was a surprise. The team had only planned to attend one regional competition involving an intensive six-week, nine-hours-per-week time period to build the robot.

The “Bear Bots” team, including sophomore Audrey Stickling and junior Kush Hari in the center, poses with the All-Star Rookie Award they won at a March 31 regional competition. Photo courtesy UAHS First Robotics on Twitter.

“You’re given a pack of guidelines and an idea of what the field looks like at the beginning of the six weeks,” Strickling said. “Then, you are to fabricate a robot that follows all those standards and make sure your robot can complete the task they’re asking for.”

This year, tasks for the robot included picking up cubes, placing them in a scale and climbing a 7-foot tower.

“It’s like a video game setup,” Strickling said. “When you get to competition, you’re paired with two other teams, and you work together to play offense and defense and score the most points.”

On March 31, UAHS placed 34th out of 55 teams at the regional competition, a success for a first-year team but far from the top spot guaranteed to enter the world competition. Rather, the UAHS FIRST Robotics team won the Rookie All-Star Award, a prize for the most well-established newbie program.

“We competed with about ten other teams at the regional that were also first-year teams. A lot of them had very good robots, but we have a very good program,” Strickling said. “We’re very sustainable. We fundraise a lot: we fundraised $34,000 this year.”

At the world competition, the UAHS team competed alongside around 600 others around the world. Despite not moving past the qualification rounds, Strickling said the experience was very rewarding.

“Our main goal from Worlds [was] to learn as much about different programs as we [could] in order to be successful. We [wanted] learn how they fundraise, how they do outreach programs,” Strickling said.

Junior Angela Li joined after hearing the team needed students who code.

“We programmed the robot to respond to the joystick,” Li said. “Some of my teammates programmed the autonomous period because in the beginning of the competition, it needs to be able to drive across a certain distance.”

Li went into the world competition hoping for a good experience.

“It’s definitely been difficult … but it’s also been extremely worth it. Despite all the struggles, we [pushed] through, and now [we’ve gone] to the world competition,” Li said.

Overall, Strickling said the first year of FIRST Robotics was an amazing experience.

“It’s definitely a lot more of a time commitment than everyone thought, but you’re learning learning business skills, you’re learning engineering skills,” Strickling said. “I’ve learned so much.”

At the world competition, the UAHS team ranked 63rd out of 65 high schools in their division.