Early College Robotics hopes to win big next year

A couple of well-oiled machines.

This is perfect description for each of the Early College at Guilford’s Robotics teams, three of whom competed at the FIRST World Championship from March 19-22. Two First Tech Challenge teams, Team 731 “Wannabee Strange” and Team 5795 “Back to the Drawing Board,” and one First Robotics Challenge team, Team 1533 “Triple Strange,” took their robots to the competition in Houston, Texas.

In order for the teams to run smoothly and complete the work each robot requires, the members work hand in hand to ensure their robots’ success.

Early College student Mohammad Haveliwala is a member of Team 5795 and is one the team’s mechanical drivers, which is an essential role when it comes to competition day.

“I do… the mechanisms on the robot,” said Haveliwala. In addition to mechanically driving the robot during competition, Haveliwala also has a particular interest in programming. Though he does not do much coding this season, he is working with the team’s head programmer to learn the ropes and hopefully be a programmer next year.

ECG student Ryan Townsend, another member of Team 5795, helps Haveliwala drive. He also plays a big part in helping his team build and maintain the robot.

“I help build swerve mechanisms and modules,” said Townsend. “I also help to design and brainstorm a lot of stuff on the robot.” Leading up to the world championship, Townsend and his team spent about eight hours a week preparing the robot for competition.

In order for the team to have a shot at Worlds, they must also have someone to manage the engineering notebook. This is ECG student Ashley Myers’ job, also a member of Team 5795.

“I mostly manage the engineering notebook, which is actually an extremely important part of winning awards in FTC,” she said. The notebook details everything the team did throughout the season and helps them win outreach-based awards.

“The engineering notebook… explains the entirety of what our team does,” Myers said. “It’s extremely important to have all of that documented for winning those top awards.”

Myers explains that in order to win awards and competitions, the team must excel in both robot performance and community outreach.

The 2016-17 season is Team 5795’s second time competing in the world championship.

ECG’s second FTC team, Team 731, is similar to its sister team in that they must work together to be successful.

Aarushi Ahuja is Team 731’s drive coach. Her role is to direct the two drivers below her without touching the controllers. Ahuja also helps with the team’s outreach efforts. This season, her team started the “Varsity Letter Project” as their main outreach project.

“Our Varsity Letter Project is trying to get robotics acknowledged as a varsity sport and gain greater recognition in the state of North Carolina,” said Ahuja.

Nicholas Day is Team 731’s lead programmer, another extremely important role on the team. Day programs the robot so that it can perform on its own during the “autonomous” period of the competition.

“My job is important because without programming, you know, the robots can’t move,” Day said.

This season is Team 731’s first time competing at Worlds since its foundation.

The third team from the ECG Robotics club to participate in Worlds is FRC Team 1533. FRC participates in a different category from the two FTC teams, as the FRC teams build larger robots.

Braxton Bensel is a member of Team 1533. Though he has a set role in his team, Bensel and his fellow team members work together to get a full learning experience throughout the season.

“I work in mechanical,” said Bensel. “You kind of just learn everything as you go, and it allows you to really truly understand everything about robotics.” Without Bensel and his fellow mechanics’ participation, many of the complicated processes of creating and building the robot would not happen. Bensel is also the team’s drive coach during competition.

“I’m the one who reads and interprets the rules and is our lead strategy guy,” he says. “I more or less decide what we’re going to do.”

Bensel’s team also attended the world championship competition during the 2015-16 season, placing 50th in their division.

All of the Early College teams performed well at the FIRST World Championship. FTC Team 5795 placed 42nd in their division, higher than last season. FTC Team 731 placed eighth in their first year at Worlds, an incredible feat for the Early College Robotics Club.

FRC Team 1533 made it to their division’s semifinals before losing to the team who would become the world finalists for the 2016-17 season.

With more knowledge and experience under their belts, the Early College robotics teams will continue to strive for excellence, both on and off the robotic field.

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