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Indianapolis’ Cyber Blue Team Sets High Goals for Rose-Hulman’s Crossroads FIRST Robotics Regional
March 29, 2013
By Marianne Messina
Perry Meridian High School's Cyber Blue robotics team should be one of the top contenders for honors at Rose-Hulman's Crossroads Regional FIRST Competition on April 4-6. After all, the Indianapolis-based team has already qualified for FIRST Robotics' World Championships after placing third out of 40 teams, and earning the Engineering Inspiration Award, at an earlier Midwest regional.
Determined Team: Cyber Blue, a team from Indianapolis' Perry Meridian High School, has earned honors at regional competitions since joining FIRST Robotics in 1999. This year's team has high hopes for the upcoming Crossroads Regional at Rose-Hulman.
Then, there's a clock on the team's website that ticks away the seconds until the "FIRST championship."
Cyber Blue, Team 234, is always shooting for the top.
Started in 1999, Cyber Blue is an experienced FIRST Robotics team with long-term sponsorships from Allison Transmission, Rolls-Royce, and Morris Machine. Allison's sponsorship comes two seasoned engineers, and more engineers come with sponsorship from Rolls-Royce, along with the corporation's "use of the training center and engineering managers."
A game-within-the-game for FIRST Robotics is scouting opposing teams and learning the best alliances that can benefit a team in the competition finals. This has been a key area for Cyber Blue's success this year.
One of those scouts, Codey Rohl, is the third family member to be a member of Team 234. "Codey has probably been more excited about [FIRST Robotics] than even the others," says his mother and team parent crew leader, Brenda Rohl.
That enthusiasm has paid off so far for the team. "He has the lead in the scouting role," states Brenda. "He was able to go out on the field and was the one who helped decide who Cyber Blue wanted to team up with."
The alliance, which included the school's sometime rival, the Red Alert team from Center Grove High School, turned out to be a winner.
An important part of scouting is having a keen eye and taking good notes about the other teams.
"We do a ‘Lessons Learned Review' after each event and at the end of the season," says Luke Hart, a sophomore member of Team 234. "From the [earlier] Boilermaker Regional, we learned the value and capability of our scouting team and the scouting data. We learned that we need to make some robot changes to improve how we manage the discs into the shooter and become more efficient."
Hart continues, "Acquiring disks and scoring quickly is the key. We are working on two or three different options for this, and will have a different or improved system for the Crossroads Regional. We have some new strategy ideas, but we will keep them secret for now."
Another of Cyber Blue's secret weapons is a programmer on the drive team, according to Kevin Kelly, one of the team mentors from Allison Transmission.
"When we had problems with the disc lift system or other robot controls, he was able to clearly articulate the issues and then work with the programming mentor to determine solutions," says Kelly.
Finding the right disc-loading system is a challenge encountered by several FIRST Robotics teams this year. Cyber Blue is still making tweaks to the disc exit angle and management coils on their robot "Omicron" in hopes of improving overall consistency at Rose-Hulman's regional competition, taking place in the college's Sports and Recreation Center.
On The Course: This year's robot designed and constructed by the Cyber Blue team (234) is shown climbing a pyramid during an earlier Midwest competition.
"We were surprised that shooting a disc was not as hard as we thought it would be," reports team mentor Chris Fultz, a program director with Rolls-Royce. "Developing consistently and getting discs reliably into the shooter is very difficult."
Team 234 is hoping for another milestone at the Crossroads Regional: Earning the Chairman's Award, considered the highest honor for a FIRST Robotics team at a competition. The award "focuses on FIRST core values," according to Paul Lazarus, a member of FIRST's executive advisory board. The Chairman's Award values mentoring, helping others, building a team, corporate sponsorship, team spirit, gracious professionalism, and all of the values involved in FIRST Robotics' culture.
Cyber Blue has chosen the Crossroads Regional as the competition to achieve this goal, and Brenda Rohl is confident of the team's credentials. "Our team has helped elementary schools with smaller robots. Team members have built book shelves, they've worked at food banks and they have distributed backpacks to children attending schools in need," she says. The team is also excited about their record of support for other FIRST teams, and after thorough preparation, they're ready to share their story with the judges at Rose-Hulman.