MHS Robotics Club competes at AWT event

By: Tom Shannon 

The Mentor High School Robotics team brought the robot they had been working on all year to the AWT Robotics competition with confidence brimming. Nightfall, our robot, was a well designed, compact, armored and highly maneuverable machine that we were pretty confident in.

The day began, for us, at 7:00 AM. There was not much more to do besides set up our station and wait for the 8:30 start time. We drew a slot that matched us up with Auburn Career Center. Their robot’s name, Piecemaker, was by far the best named robot there.

At the start of our first match, things were going well. We were out maneuvering Piecemaker well and got a hit or two in. However, we took a hit that should not have been that damaging, but completely immobilized us. For about 30 seconds we could not move, nor spin our weapon. Luckily Piecemaker was also sputtering along and could not do as much damage as they might have.

After a bit of panicking and a sinking feeling of despair, our robot began to move again and our weapon spun, but we were definitely behind in the match in terms of points. After landing a pretty vicious blow to its side, Piecemaker started smoking. With that they had to tap out giving us the victory in the first match

The second match happened pretty quickly, and our robot was in pretty good shape with only minor repairs. Our opponent, Willowick, did not have as good mobility as we did, and started out the match trying for a knockout blow. They sped at the start straight at us like Ivan Drago coming for Apollo Creed. Unlike Mr. Creed, we dodged out the way, allowing Willowick to smash into the wall. We quickly turned to hit their sides with our weapon, flipping up their robot on our back.

At this point we did circles around the arena trying to shake off our opponent, but could not. Instead, it looked like a professional wrestling match where we were carrying our opponent on our shoulders to play to the crowd. People in the stands were appreciative of this admitted accident move. After a few more minutes, Willowick tapped out, and the 2nd round victory was ours!

Again, there was little time in between the matches, which was ok with us because our robot was ready to go. Our next match was against Madison’s robot, Dreadnought. Madison had won this competition two years running, so we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Their robot was pretty small, not very maneuverable, but had a very powerful weapon. The match started with about 20 seconds of us dancing around their robot, seeking to get in a hit while dodging their weapon of mass destruction. We felt we had an opening and went in for the attack but Madison was able to get their weapon in front as a final act of desperation.

Imagine a man, flipping a coin to decide where he will eat lunch that day. Imagine him not liking the result of the first flip and flipping it a few more times until he gets the desired outcome. This is, essentially, what Madison was doing to us.

It’s hard to relate the feeling we had when our robot went flying straight up into the air, flipping like a coin. When we landed, we were in bad shape but could still fight, but at this point Madison closed in again, and again, flipping us up into the air each time.

Imagine a father, happy to see his daughter, throwing her up into the air repeatedly, catching her each time. It was like that, but instead of catching us we were dropped to the hard ground each time.

We quickly tapped out to concede the match and made the long, somber walk back to our work bench. It took a few minutes, plus a very large shovel and industrial broom, to gather up Nightfall and bring it back.

Once we finally placed our robot on the table to begin our examination, I imagine we felt what the doctors who examined Steve Austin must have felt. First, a wave of trepidation, followed by a feeling that we could rebuild it.

And rebuild it we did. We literally rebuilt almost the entire robot, using spare parts or repairing what parts we could not replace. We were hammering titanium pieces back to flat, replacing the entire frame part by part. All seven of the team were doing their part. It was definitely a Herculean task but in the end it worked. While we were not able to make it better, stronger, faster...we were able make it almost as good as new!

Almost. In testing it we could not get our weapon to spin. There was some programming error between our weapon and our remote control. The robot drove just fine, and we checked and rechecked every connection. We even replaced the entire weapon motor. However, when it came time for our match against riverside we had a well built, extremely maneuverable robot that had no weapon.

With a heavy heart we placed our robot in the cage, hoping for a miracle. We needed the other robot to break down for us to win. We danced around as best as we could, like if Mohammed Ali had to box with both hands tied behind his back.

In the end we were not able to win our final round and were eliminated from the tournament in 10th place.

Our team members:

Alex Ondarza

Vishnu Nistala

Jared Dacar

Jack Lombardo

Ethan Leduc

Venkat Suru

Jasmine Applegate

Team Advisor from Libra:

Ken Kay

Faculty Advisor:

Thomas Shannon

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