BHS Robotics reaches semifinals at FIRST Canada Competition

The BHS Robotics

Team Berkelium's robot competing in the first Canada Competition

Courtesy of Emily Lao

​​From Feb. 28 to March 4, Team Berkelium, Berkeley High School’s robotics team, traveled to Victoria, British Columbia to participate in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Canada Competition. A total of 53 students went on the trip, according to Emily

Lao, a BHS senior. The team succeeded in reaching the semifinals, as one out of 35 teams participating in the competition. 

The robotics season started on Jan. 7, when the team began reviewing the details of the competition field, as well as requirements that every team must build their robot with to have a chance. 

Lao serves as the Imagery Lead for the team, and was one of the students who attended the competition. She described how the team is organized into different sections, which focus on various aspects of the robot’s design.

“The CAD team, which stands for computer aided design, will start working on prototypes digitally to get specifications. And then the mechanical team will start building things out of wood, or just scrap pieces of metal and use drills as motors to test them out,” Lao said. 

She added that every First Robotics Competition (FRC) team gets six to eight weeks of planning and building season before taking their robots to competition. 

After traveling on Feb. 27, Team Berkelium spent Feb. 28 walking along the coast and exploring the Royal British Columbia Museum, before their practice matches the following day. During practice matches, the team got to familiarize themselves with the real “field,” where the robots would compete, rather than the replica they had built in the robotics room at BHS. 

They were also able to practice with the other teams that were potentially in the randomly assigned alliances, which they would compete with during Thursday and Friday’s matches. The competition was organized such that each alliance was made of three separate teams that then fought against other alliances.

Thursday’s matches were ranking matches where each team was ranked with the other teams. BHS was ranked eleventh during these matches. Scouters, which are students on each team that take account of how other teams are doing, had opportunities to take notes during ranking matches, Lao said. 

Lenka Simon, a BHS sophomore, is one of the co-managers of the team, alongside James Underwood. Their position during the competition was to talk to judges about their team and robot in order to win an award outside of how many points the robot scored during competition. This award would give them an opportunity to make it to the competition championship. 

Simon described how the environment of the competition and team attitudes differed from those they had encountered at past competitions.

“I’ve been to other robotics competitions, where it hasn’t been exactly like this. It (was) a little bit more tense,” Simon said. “But, this one was really friendly … I mean, you know, we’re still competitive on the field and we still want to win, but it’s what FIRST Robotics, the organization, have coined a term for what they called co-opetition. It’s sort of gracious professionalism.”

Simon said that each match began with the robot moving autonomously with pre-programmed directions for 15 seconds. Next, the drive team was required to start manually controlling the robots movement. The goal was to pick up and place cubes and cones onto platforms, and in the last 30 seconds of the match, the goal was to get the robot or multiple robots in the alliance to balance on a tilting platform. 

Lao reflected on Team Berkelium’s  dynamic and how the trip served as a team bonding experience. 

“I think just the energy of our team is really great. I feel like it encapsulates Berkeley High pretty well, in which we’re a little chaotic,” Lao said. “We’re a little out there, but we have a lot of fun and we make sure to bring our full selves to the competition.”