Inside Trojonix – Robotics Team Prepares for Competition

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Trojonix team members pose with the robot after the bagging.

 

A quote found on www.usfirst.org by founder Dean Kamen describes in perfect detail the goals of FIRST Robotics. “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

FIRST Robotics is described as “coopertition” or a mix of competition and cooperation. In each match, there are two alliances made up of three different teams, each side working together to achieve a common goal.

This year, the competition is Recycle Rush. The goal is to stack storage totes on top of each other and place a recycling bin on top of the stack. For added points, teams try to place a pool noodle in or on one of the bins.

With 3,650 active FIRST teams worldwide, it is hard to focus on just one team. Out of the 3,129 active teams in the United States, there is one team in Saco, Maine. One team at Thornton Academy. Team 5286, Trojonix.

Trojonix represents the diversity of Thornton Academy. With members from different backgrounds and members from every grade, in the beginning, it’s hard to come together. Everyone wants to have their own job and do their own thing. Rookie teams often struggle with overcoming this, but with Trojonix in its second year, members worked efficiently to build their robot.

They met every day after school from when the challenge is released in January and often work nights and weekends when they are fueled by exciting ideas and deadlines. With only six weeks to build a functional robot, members must keep long hours to make the deadline. This year, the robot was bagged on February 17.

The bagging of the robot is an event all its own. Members gathered in the garage of Andrew Nadeau to bring build season to a close. It was late at night on Tuesday, February 17. There was a bus, a truck and a jeep, all full of people waiting to help with the bagging. It is exactly what it seems, the robot is put into a clear industrial bag and tied off with a foot long zip tie. The zip tie has a serial number that is logged by the team’s coach and every time the bag is opened, the tag must be changed and the new serial number logged.

Teams are allowed to unbag their robot for no less than two hours at a time but no more than six hours total. Trojonix plans to unbag their robot twice for three hours each to do maintenance. They have a second robot to practice driving and to make mechanical changes on to eliminate wasting time during their limited unbag sessions.

Trojonix has named their robot for the year Pinch Point. Pinch Point succeeds the previous year’s robot, Philosopher, who was more commonly known as Phil.

Getting to know the students of the robotics team can be hard because they all work so tirelessly. Putting in anywhere between two to 35 hours a week trying to get Pinch Point in working condition, they still try to make time for homework and friends.

Mr. Lukas, the coach and mentor of Trojonix claims to have not always wanted to be on a FIRST team. He was asked by Jamee Luce, director of the Robotics Institute of Maine, to start a team at Thornton. Lukas serves as a mentor for team members in addition to co-teaching advanced engineering and hopes that students will learn a lot about solving real world problems by being on a FIRST team. He plans to rest up after the season ends and hopefully keep the team running for next year.

Quinn Campbell, the team’s head captain and main designer, has been interested in designing and building for his whole life but did not search for a robotics team upon entering high school. He invests a lot of his time in working with the team, ranging anywhere between 24 to 32 hours a week. He has big plans for after the season ends, hoping to keep the team together to build go-karts or fighting robots. He is graduating this year but may return as a mentor next season if Lukas decides to keep the team running.

Andrew Nadeau, the team’s co-captain with Campbell, has been interested in robotics since he “was a wee lad.” Unlike Campbell, Nadeau did look for a robotics team upon entering high school, but did not find one. He will be attending college far away and will not be available to return as mentor in the near future.

Carl Meserve, a freshman on the team, has been devoted to the team since day one. He has been interested in robotics for a while and thus searched for the team upon entering high school. You will often see Carl in room 55 working endlessly on Pinch Point. He doesn’t think about after the season ends at this point because he and his teammates are too busy working to get Pinch Point optimized for competition. He hopes to rejoin the team next year.

Rebecca Beveridge, a junior, is now almost through her first season with Trojonix. “I joined to see the process and gain experience on the subject,” said Beveridge. She plans to rejoin next year, but plans to use the season end as a time to rest up and catch up on homework. “My role is to help in anyway I can. They tell me to do something, I do it,” said Beveridge.

For the most part, the team gets along well and demonstrates great team work. The team is like a second family for some.

The first competition for Trojonix was March 12 through March 14 in Lewiston, Maine. The team then carried on to the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire from March 20 through March 22.

In Lewiston, the team did not qualify for the finals, but they came in 27th place out of 31. The team was given the Gracious Professionalism Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

At UNH, the team finished 25th overall and came in fourth out of the semifinals.

To see a video interview with some of the team members, look here:

     

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