This year’s Buckeye Regional FIRST Competition was intense and terrifically challenging. No surprises there. But this was the first year without our partner school, North Royalton HS, and we sorely felt their absence. Our team, 5976, didn’t make it into the finals at our regional competition despite this being the most technically advanced machine Gilmour Academy has ever produced. There were some fundamental design flaws that could have been improved upon had we additional man-hours to offer. The Moonshots nevertheless performed with passion and purpose have learned from the experience. With the steadfast support of Gilmour’s alumni community like the Seikels and the Lennons, and our neighbors, Rockwell Automation, we’re well-positioned to make a much bigger splash next year.

New Technology Employed

This year we experimented with vision recognition, distance sensors, gyroscopes, pneumatics, lift systems, and a whole bunch of programming advancements like adaptable autonomous mode scripts and class wrappers. The introduction of a Competitive Robotics course has allowed the core members of our team to spend class time studying the engineering principles at play and develop much more sophisticated solutions. While our coaches, Mr. Vanek and myself, have been developing new scaffolding resources to quickly train new members, it was our senior leadership this year that really kicked open the doors to this new tech.

Committed Leadership

The Moonshots were very lucky to have a handful of committed and awfully talented seniors leading the group. Two seniors in particular must be recognized, Bradley Bares and Sebastian Williams. These two led extraordinary efforts to advance the team’s hardware and software respectively. They stayed late, worked weekends, overcame significant problems and supported a positive, safe work environment. I’m awfully proud.

Buckeye Drama

The number of times our team was hurriedly making fixes to the robot’s hardware and software as it was on the cart rolling to the game field was shocking. The entire three-day competition was an adrenaline-filled sprint to solve problems and improve our performance in the brief windows between high-stakes matches. Our underclassmen, Charlie and Joe, were extraordinary as they learned and helped all at high speed. Here’s an update I sent:

Hello from the robotics competition,

The stress levels are high! We’re at the Buckeye Regional and our robot is out of its bag. We’re currently missing practice matches as our little 6-man team hurries to re-mount and re-string the pulley motors that lift and tilt our pneumatic arm. Once they’re attached more securely than before (we ripped them off their mounting right before we had to seal the robot at the end of build-season) then it’s up to our software team to test our code and refine our controls and our autonomous mode. And, as a much lower priority, we still have to attach the rope-winch and grappling hook we’ll use to climb. A moonshot indeed!

It’s intimidating as always to be surrounded by teams so much more established and polished. We don’t have the flashy workstations and give-aways the other teams use to court placement in the playoff team recruitment. But these guys are so incredibly focused and motivated–it’s worth the terrific stress just to see the best of our students in this crunch time.

Ready for Next Year

Every year the team continues a tradition (started by Daniel Zhang ’16) to name the robot after a moon. This year’s robot was named Rhea and next year’s will be named Elara. Elara will be captained by rising junior Anthony Gillespie. Alongside Anthony will be Charlie Mendes as the Software Team Captain. To prepare for the 2019 season we’ve got some big plans for the Gilmour Academy Fabrication Lab. We’ve also revised our recruiting strategy and hope to have a much deeper bench to call upon next year. It’s going to be great!


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