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Robo Mounties build robots for fun

Members of Club not only enjoy thrill of challenge but competition as well

Not everyone who plays with robots has a mind for mayhem.

While television shows often show robots as agents of destruction, with robotics competition shows like Battle Bots and Robot Wars that were once extremely popular, the Lacombe Composite High School Robot Mounties use their bots for other purposes.

“What most people think when they see robotics is the Battle Bots TV shows,” said Dylan Johns, member the Robo Mounties Robotics Club.

Instead, what Johns and his teammates Quinn Meadus, Andrew Thacker and Subu Upadhyay do is engineer, construct and operate robots to perform tasks and show off their skills.

Each robot is designed specifi cally to complete the task laid out in each competition, said Johns.

There are three different types of robotics competitions that the Robo Mounties compete in.

Skills competitions allow teams to build robots out of just about anything and no programming is involved.

Thacker said that these robots function much like remote control cars.

Teams then control these robots in order to perform a certain task within a given time limit.

The other two competitions, VEX and FTC, contain a skill-testing aspect as well, but robots must be built using the provided kit.

Some programming of the robots is also necessary for these competitions, said Thacker.

Last year, Robo Mounties won the Inspire Award at FTC and thereby won entry into the world championships.

There were a total of 130 teams competing at the championships in St. Louis and Robo Mounties, one of two Canadian teams, placed 53rd.

Most recently, the Robo Mounties competed in a skills competition in Edmonton where they placed third with their robot, the Guillotine.

For this skills competition, robots needed to pick up, move, and deposit wooden pallets onto a rack to score.

While doing so, teams also had to navigate their robots through a number of obstacles in the arena.

Upadhyay said there was a fair amount of strategy involved in the competition as teams could push their opponents’ pallets off the rack to keep them from scoring while placing their own pallets.

In order to accomplish this task, the team designed its robot, Guillotine, to look and function like a forklift.

There are four teams within the Robo Mounties Club.

Two teams, one is a competition team and the other is an alternate, were selected to represent LCHS at the competition in Edmonton.

The competition team consisted of Upadhyay, Meadus, Thacker and Johns.

For their next competition, the team will disassemble the Guillotine and use its components to build a new robot, once again designed specifi cally to perform whatever task is laid out in the competition.

Whenever they build a new bot, the team strives to make the robot as functional as possible while still keeping it simple, said Thacker.

“If you build a robot with lots of moving parts, it usually doesn’t work out so well because you have to control them all and it’s just too complicated,” said Thacker.

As for why they joined the Robotics Club, all of the team members have different reasons.

Johns said he just happened to wander into the classroom at the right time to be exposed to the Club.

Meadus said he and Upadhyay will both be studying engineering in post-secondary next school year and thought this would be a good way to get a little experience.

Thacker said he joined the Club through friendships and stayed for the camaraderie.

Steve Schultz, teacher supervisor for the club, said that the Club was started seven years ago by some students who were simply interested in robotics.

To support this interest, he began offering lunch-hour meetings but the group really began to grow after discovering a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition four years ago.

Since then, the club has grown to consist of 20 members on four teams and participates in a number of competitions throughout the year.