Sean Webber ‘17 – Under the cover of their new shop in RHS’s “blue hallway,” Romeo’s Byting Bulldogs have been working straight through their afternoons designing, building, and testing a new robot. Their robot will compete in FIRST robotics competitions throughout the state. FIRST is the team’s overseeing organization, and stands “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Team 3539 is part of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) league. If our hometown team does especially well, they will also have the opportunity of travelling to St. Louis, Missouri to compete in FIRST’s international championship competition held at the end of April.

Michigan has a large number of FRC teams compared to other states, so the silent competition between teams is strong. When the difference between winning and losing a competition could be a hinge or motor, design concepts and blueprints are guarded with every ounce of energy available. The more secretive teams are, the less their competition can estimate their ability and “size them up”. The Byting Bulldogs proved to be very secretive and suspected a spy was aloof during our interview with them.

Thankfully, they weren’t secretive about this year’s competition, which is a game called “Recycle Rush.”

“Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter,” according to FIRST’s official website.

When asked about this year’s game, the team wasn’t overly pleased with it. Instead of the robots having defensive and offensive positions on the field like they have in past years, the only thing robots will be competing with this year is time. Most teams, ours included, prefer strategy over speed.

“Recycle Rush is a change, but it’s an unexpected one,” Evan Fadanelli ’16 said. “We’re used to competing against other teams [robots], and now we’re only competing against ourselves.”

In addition to a new workshop at RHS, the team has been adapting to new computers and software programs. The technology department recently upgraded all of their shop’s desktop computers, which they are very thankful for. The new computers include Intel i5 core processors, 8GB of memory, AMD Radeon graphic cards, 19” rotating displays and three terabytes of J Drive storage. Instead of wasting time staring at the infamous hourglass cursor, they’re spending more time being productive.

The team also started using AutoCAD for designing parts and the Java programming language. For anyone who thinks they might be interested in FIRST robotics, it is a perfect fit for anyone who has a dual interest in engineering and technology. While robotics requires a large time commitment, it is a very enjoyable and rewarding club to be a part of.

“People think robotics is all serious work and no fun, but it is a lot more active and fun than most people think,” Fadanelli continued. “We work hard and play hard.”

The robotics team prefers that new members join during October and November, before their build season starts. While any high school student with C’s and above in all of their classes can join the Robotics team, those interested in programming should inquire about Mrs. Gardner’s programming classes at the RETC or have prior programming knowledge.

The competition this year is tougher than ever, but the Byting Bulldogs have some top secret ideas up their sleeves to bring home the best awards. They will need to have their robot completed by February 17th and ready to compete in competitions the following week.

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