After winning a qualifying tournament in Edmonton, the Robo Mounties are on their way to the World VEX Robotics competition in Anaheim, California.
On Feb. 17, the Robo Mounties, Lacombe Composite High School’s robotics team, won a VEX tournament at NAIT Polytechnic in Edmonton.
They therefore qualified for a spot in the world championship which is set to be held in Anaheim from April 23–26.
Robo Mounties Co-Captain EJ Aquino said he was somewhat surprised when his team won the competition and learned they would be competing in worlds.
“I was shocked,” said Aquino. “I actually told (my teammates), I don’t care if we go to world championships, I just want to win this, and we did.”
Each year the VEX competition is different, so each year the Robo Mounties are required to build a entirely different robot to complete it.
This year’s competition required robots to score points by collecting different sized balls and placing them in certain areas to score points.
Smaller blue balls called ‘bucky balls,’ could be collected and deposited in a vertical cylinder for points and large red inflatable balls could be balanced on top of the cylinder for points as well.
While doing this, the pilots need to navigate their robots through a number of obstacles throughout the field.
Robot Mounties designed their robot to be fast and strong.
It has two rotating cylinders with paddles to scoop up the balls, and could carry three bucky balls at a time and had a lift to reach the top of the cylinder and deposit the balls.
Aquino said it is difficult to design a robot to accomplish all of the tasks in the competition and to be strong in every aspect.
He added there are a lot of specifics that go into designing how the robot will accomplish these tasks as well.
He added that, because of the short timeframe between competitions, the team only had two weeks to design and build the robot.
Luckily, the club didn’t need to start right from scratch.
Curtis Woods, team co-captain, said the robot was essentially an extension of the one that had been built for last year’s competition.
At the NAIT competition, teams played a round-robin to determine the ranks of all the teams.
Afterwards, the teams forged alliances with each other to advance throughout the tournament.
The Robot Mounties got off to a rough start said Steve Schultz, teacher supervisor for the club, losing their first game.
However, by a happy accident, they were able to forge alliances with two Fort McMurray teams whose robots complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
After alliances are formed, allied teams play together with two robots per alliance on the field at a time.
Robo Mounties developed a strategy with their allied teams where they had one robot on the field for the entire game and rotated the other two in and out.
It was enough to win the tournament.
Now the Robo Mounties will represent LCHS, Lacombe and Alberta on a global stage.
Not only did the Robo Mounties win the tournament, they took home a sportsmanship award as well.
Woods said the team won the award by showing sportsmanship in a number of ways.
Most notable among them was the team helping to set up the tournament and helping to fix another team’s robot.
Woods said that when the team arrived for the tournament, the organizers were running behind schedule.
Instead of leaving to get their hotel set up, the Robo Mounties set up their own robot and then helped organizers finish setting up the tournament.
During the tournament, the Robo Mounties also went out of their way to help another team.
Aquino said there was a younger team at the competition that were struggling quite a bit as it was their first tournament.
While fixing their own robot, the Robo Mounties noticed the younger team struggling, and managed to find a team member of their own who wasn’t busy that could go over and help the younger team fix their robot.
Woods said even though his team wanted to win the competition, they didn’t want to do so knowing they could have helped another team advance as well.
“We won the competition, but we did it while maintaining gracious professionalism,” said Woods. He added that is an idea that is always promoted through robotics competitions.