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Coal Ridge High School's Titan Technos Triumph Over Murphy's Law at Robotics Competition

Coal Ridge High School's Titan Technos Triumph Over Murphy's Law at Robotics Competition

After a four-year hiatus, Coal Ridge High School's Titan Technos made a comeback at this year’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech competition.

The Titan Technos took to the competition field at Coal Ridge High School last weekend proudly showcasing their sleek robot, equipped with four wide-tires and Titan Blue wheel trim. The mechanical arms were poised for action, the controllers in hand, and the Titans were eager to make their triumphant return to the world of robotics.

However, Murphy's Law had other ideas. The infamous adage, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong," seemed to be the theme of the day. Despite the challenges that arose, the four-person team, consisting of Maria Bucio, Aron Ruiz, Alvin Ibarra, and Hugo Rodelas, faced adversity with determination, had a blast, and walked away with some valuable life lessons.

Techno Titans team controlling a robot

According to FIRST, the competition is all about students taking on the challenge of designing, fundraising, branding their team, honing teamwork skills, and constructing and programming industrial-sized robots for a thrilling field game against like-minded competitors. In the arena, teams pair up to form red and blue alliances, collectively earning points. After several rounds, the top four teams advance, and they have the opportunity to select another team to form an alliance moving into the final rounds, so performance throughout the day counts.

This year's robots at the Mountain Qualifying event showcased an array of innovative features. Some robots had super brush sweepers, efficiently gobbling up hexagonal plastic disks called pixels, while others featured pincher claws for pixel pickup, extension arms for delicate pixel placement on vertical surfaces, and colossal hooks that allowed certain robots to earn bonus points by executing a pull-up at the end of the bouts.

For the Titan Technos, this competition marks the culmination of their Coal Ridge Robotics II class, taught by Tabitha Fish, where they transform the concept of a robot into a living reality.

“It's just fun to see stuff that you come up with actually work. You start with an idea, and when you actually build it, implement it and actually see it somewhat work, it brings me excitement to seeing that,” said Aron.

Robotics isn't reserved solely for mechanically inclined students eager to build robots. Gifted writers and marketers are also encouraged to participate, as part of the FIRST Robotics Competition involves creating a comprehensive portfolio and marketing plan.

“It's a great experience,” said Aron. “I took robotics I and we were working with Legos. In Robotics II you build tons of problem-solving skills, starting from the ground up, doing it again, and then taking it all apart again. It's just learning skills that you might need in your future careers.”

When the Titan Technos took to the field, they encountered unexpected challenges. Instead of giving in to despair, the four Techos displayed their resilience by completely overhauling their robot during a 90-minute lunch break, enabling it to accomplish two essential tasks and consistently score points.

Alvin explained that the dated robot kit - it is the original 2016 kit when the program started - and the servomechanisms or servos for short, were giving the team problems along the way. A servo consists of a DC motor, a controller circuit, and a potentiometer or similar feedback mechanism and the team struggled to find the right balance of servo power to control all of their moving parts.

Rather than enjoying lunch and performing some robotic fine tuning, the Technos did a complete rebuild on their robot. Team members were hanging off of the robot attached by screw drivers as the robot was walked to the next bout.
“I am so proud of this team,” explained Ms. Fish. “They are the first group since COVID to be able to finish a robot to bring to the competition. It would have been easy for a team to get discouraged with their issues throughout the day, but they just kept problem-solving and reworking their robot. I am looking forward to what they will accomplish next year."

“We don’t give up. We’re not like that,” said Aron. “We put in the work during the lunch break, and it paid off.  We're actually helping our teammates at least serving them up the hexagon so they can score It just feels a little nice that we're not just the thing weighing our teammates down.”