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Vigo County's Inaugural FIRST Robotics Team Getting Ready for Crossroads Regional

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
FRC-5188-Team -Photo

Rookie Team: Students from Terre Haute South, Terre Haute North, and West Vigo high schools have combined forces to form a Vigo County team for this year's FIRST Robotics Crossroads Regional on March 6-8 at Rose-Hulman's Sports and Recreation Center.

FRC5188-Robot -Tossing -Ball

Accomplishing Goal: The Vigo County FIRST Robotics team successfully built a robot that can pick up a ball, carry it for a distance, and then deliver it into a practice scoring area. Now, the team is getting ready to see if the task can be completed in competition against 44 others teams from nine states.

A group of 30 Vigo County high-school students have met the challenge of design and building a robot in six weeks to pick up, carry, and deliver a large ball to score points in this year's FIRST Robotics competition. Now, they're looking forward to accomplishing all those tasks in a fun-filled educational environment at the Crossroads Regional on March 6-8 at Rose-Hulman's Sports and Recreation Center.

This has been an exhilarating experience for the students making up one of the two rookie teams in this year's regional. They have had limited financial resources and no experience in building projects of this scope. Ten Rose-Hulman student mentors provided helpful advice throughout the design, fabrication, and testing process, and workspace was provided at Rose-Hulman's Branam Innovation Center.

Team members met nearly seven days/nights a week throughout the six-week time period given each of the 45 teams from nine states registered to compete in the Crossroads Regional. Work was split between three groups: mechanical, programming, and non-engineering.

And, Vigo County's team (Team 5188) had a fully functional robot on the last building day-February 18. It has been able to pick up a ball, carry it a distance, and then toss it into practice scoring areas.

"It came right down to the 11th hour, but we made it," states one team member. "Every time something would break or fail, we would just get to work fixing it. We were determined to succeed."

In fact, the team's motto has been "Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Cheaply."

Now, team members are anxiously waiting for March 6 when they get their robot ready for practice rounds, qualifying on March 7, and, possible, the regional finals on March 8. All events are free and open to the public.

"The students have done a great job and have been enthusiastic since Day 1 of this project," says mentor and Rose-Hulman senior biomedical engineering student Kelli Greenberg. She was a Crossroads Regional volunteer last year, is a 2010 graduate of Vigo County Terre Haute North High School, and has two younger sisters on the Vigo County FIRST Robotics team.

"The mentors did a lot of teaching during the building process, since most of the team members came with little or no experience," Greenberg states.

Mentor Dan D'Avello, a senior electrical engineering major, adds: "The team wanted to start with a square frame, but it was too big. They needed a rectangle to mount a catapult and basket. Everything worked out in the end."

Mother Nature caused other challenges as several school cancellations and delays prevented team meetings and project work sessions. Slow delivery of important parts also delayed the team's preparations.

"It has been a learning process throughout, and that's what makes FIRST Robotics such a great program," says Greenberg. "The students are learning valuable lessons that they will take into college and beyond."

One of the two rookie teams from the Crossroads Regional may have the opportunity to advance to the FIRST Robotics' Championships on April 23-26 in St. Louis.

FIRST and anonymous donors have provided grants to encourage the rookie team. Local sponsors include EDA, Gold Buyers International, Lawrenco, The Pawn Store Inc., Rick's Smokehouse & Grill, and Square Donuts. Sponsors can join the effort by contacting the team through email, visiting the team's Facebook page or reaching Greenberg.