Robotics team gears up for contest

John Ingersoll, Brayden Christiansen and Dalton Lewis of JackBots work to finish their robot before the Feb. 19 deadline for the FIRST Robotics Competition regionals. When complete, their desing will be able to capture and lift inflated balls, install plates on elevated postiions and even lift itself onto an elevated platform.

JackBots is gearing up for its second year of robotics competitions with a space exploration theme.

For the second year, St. Maries High School’s robotics team will head to the FIRST Robotics Competition. The team is rushing to build a remote-controlled machine to challenge those from other schools for a shot at national competition.

For this year’s challenge, robots built by students must complete a number of challenges with a space exploration theme. Controlled by remote, the machines must be able to collect inflated balls and deposit them into an elevated position. They must also be able to secure Velcro-backed plates onto specific locations, as well as elevate the entire robot off the ground and onto a suspended platform.

Points will be awarded for each task, and winning teams will advance through rounds to determine winners. John Ingersoll, a returning member of JackBots, said elevating the robot to reach a platform has been the largest challenge so far and will be worth the most points in competition.

“We’ve been working on it a couple of weeks now,” he said. “I think we’ll get it done in time.”

The robot must be completed by Feb. 19. After that, the machine will be inspected and sealed, and no changes to the design can be made. The team can still make preparations outside of the robot, including raising funds and gathering parts, and can make modifications to it when the competition begins a month later.

Community members have again stepped forward to help the rookie team reach competition. While a final list of donors hasn’t been released, Mr. Noyes said most of the sponsors from last year’s competition have returned to support JackBots – and the team is actively looking for more sources to improve the program.

Last year, JackBots was invited to participate in the national competition as a first-year team. Mr. Noyes said there is no guarantee they will proceed this year, and they will have to distinguish themselves at regional competitions to advance.

Despite this, he said he is confident of the team’s chances this year.

“If we can get the robot to do what it needs to, I’ll feel really good about it,” he said.

The competition will be March 28 in Boise.

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