Robotics team competes in online competitions

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Current and former members of the BHHS Robotics team at competition in March 2020. Photo courtesy of Ella Cox.

Kate Kotlyar staff writer

The Beverly Robotics team, Team 1515, is participating in an online competition instead of in-person due to COVID-19 restrictions, which began on Jan. 9, 2021.

2021’s FIRST Robotics competition includes three events: Infinite Recharge at Home, Innovation Challenge, and Game Design. In Innovation Challenge, the business and build portions of the team work together to solve a real-world problem; in Game Design, students create their own FIRST competition game to be judged; lastly, in Infinite Recharge, students showcase their robot’s technical qualities. All challenges are to be submitted into FIRST by March 4, 2021. 

To be able to work on the three challenges, part of the build team volunteered to work on each challenge with members of the programming and business teams. 

“I think [the Innovation Challenge] is great because it’s really a unification of our team. Where in the past, [we] always have this kind of conflict. This like, ‘Oh, we’re better than build’ or build’s like, ‘We’re better than business.’ It’s really hard, as a teacher, to bring them together. It’s like, ‘No, guys, we are a part of the same team. We are unified as the same team,’” Robotics teacher John Castle said. “So this year, this aspect has really brought the whole team together to make them realize how much they have to rely on each other and that we are a unified team.”

The Innovation Challenge team, led by the president of the Business Division junior Sarah Lepkowitz, is tackling the issue of how to encourage people to get outside and be physically active. 

“Our goal is to solve a problem that we identify through research, so the goal for this year was to help people be more active, involve them in physical activity and kind of encourage that. Our current idea is what we’ve nicknamed the ‘Energy Shoe.’ Basically, it’s a shoe that, as you walk, generates energy,” Lepkowitz said. “So, we like to think of it as, ‘Oh you know this encourages physical activity because as you run, as you walk, as you do whatever outside, you’re wirelessly charging your devices.’” 

Build Specialist and Safety Captain junior Ella Cox leads the Game Design team.

“We have Game Design where we have to create and present, in various forms, our own game. Various forms means we have to submit four essays, images such as CAD and sketches, as well as an optional video and supplemental information,” Cox said.

The winners of the Game Design challenge will be considered for use in future competitions. 

Junior Eli Ramer, who is also the Machine Specialist and District Liaison, leads the Infinite Recharge team. 

“The biggest bulk of what we’re doing is prepping a presentation, writing a script for it and doing the practices. ‘ll be presenting the build portion of it, so that’s going to go over a lot of the design process we went through and it’s going to go over the challenges we faced and key features of our robot that we’re really proud of and how our competition season went. Then there’s also a programming portion [to the challenge] which is going to be presented by George [Nebieridze], representing the programming division. Then there’s going to be Brian Chang to field CAD questions [and] Ethan Stone to field electrical questions,” Ramer said. “Currently, we’re working on smoothing out that presentation, making sure it’s the best it can be and making sure we’re within the time limit.”

Overall, Castle, Cox, Lepkowitz and Ramer all feel “excited” to be in competition season, despite feeling “bummed” that they are not competing in-person.

“I don’t think anything can really replace an in person competition, but giving us this alternative is definitely good. I do appreciate the ability to do something robotics related and to be involved with the team, even if we can’t see each other in person or work on a new robot this year for a new game or physically touch the robot,” Ramer said. “I was appreciative and it felt pretty good to have that kickoff because it was almost like a return to some kind of normalcy that we would have had in the actual year, but we still had it this year, so that was excellent.”

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