Robotics team prepares for state championship

The 12-member team, composed of seventh to 11th graders, competed against 22 other robotics teams in the Challenge qualifier at Greenwich Academy on Saturday, Jan. 18.

“There were five qualifying matches with two teams randomly allied against two other teams,” explained Susan Lauricella, head of teen services at the Wilton Library.

“We were ranked second out of the 23 teams until the last match, when we dropped to ninth place.”

Following the team’s drop in rank, the top four teams selected two other teams to be their alliance partners in the elimination rounds, said Ms. Lauricella.

“The No. 1 team — Dragon Terminators from Old Greenwich — selected the Wrecker Robotics from Westport and us. From there, our alliance group made it to the final round and won,” she said.

Nickia Muraskin, a 14-year-old member of Singularity Technology, said the team is excited to have won its first qualifier.

“It was really fun to see how all the other robots worked and coordinate with our alliance partner,” she said.

“It was a great experience and we’re really excited that we made it to states in our first year as a team.”

During the qualifier, Singularity Technology underwent a 15-minute interview by a panel of judges.

“The interview was something we had to work on quite a bit before the qualifier because everyone participated in it,” said Nickia.

“They basically asked us about the challenges we had building our robot, how it worked, why we chose our game strategy of having our robot hang on the bar and pick up blocks, and how we determined everything.”

Singularity Technology received a trophy for the victory, but most importantly, said Ms. Lauricella, the win assured the team a spot in the March 8 state championship at Greens Farms Academy in Westport.

At the state championship, there will be multiple rounds during which each team’s robot will be given a 30-second autonomous period where it moves without controls.

“Ours is programmed to drive up and then park on the ramp,” said Ms. Lauricella.

Following the autonomous period, each team is given 30 more seconds to have its robots scoop blocks, raise flags or drive up the ramp and hang from a bar, Ms. Lauricella said.

“We’re working on implementing a new mechanism for the state championship so our robot will be able to raise a flag, in addition to hanging on the bar and picking up blocks,” Nickia explained.

“We’re also getting a new configuration for attaching our bucket to make sure it’ll be more accurate, and we’re implementing friction on our bucket so it can transport the blocks more easily.”

In addition to competing with their robot during the state championship, each team gives a presentation to a panel of judges who then ask them random questions.

“Depending upon what the judges discover during this session, teams can be nominated for awards,” said Ms. Lauricella.

Before the state championship, however, Singularity Technology will attend another qualifier, in Windsor Locks, said Ms. Lauricella.

At the second qualifier, the team will be able to sharpen its driving and presentation skills without having to worry about qualifying.

“The team will have to do the same things at the upcoming qualifier, as well as the state championship,” said Ms. Lauricella.

Nickia said in a normal week, the team spends about five hours working on its robot.

“Some weeks — like the week before the qualifier — we spent around 10 to 12 hours a week,” she said.

“We’ll probably have more weeks like that before the state championship.”

Nickia said time management has been a challenge in preparing for the championship.

“I think the hardest part has been managing our time so every section of our team can have time to work on the robot,” she said.

“We have to divide into a building team, programming and, of course, we have to practice driving.”

If Singularity Technology is one of the winning teams at states, they go on to Super Regionals, held in Pennsylvania at the beginning of April.

The winning team at Super Regionals, said Ms. Lauricella, then go to Worlds in St. Louis, which takes place in late April.

While the team is excited about going to the state championship, it costs a lot to build a robot and compete, said Ms. Lauricella.

“In the beginning of the year we raised funds,” said Nickia.

“Right now we’re basically just continuing with the funds we have.”

In the fall, the team raised $1,100 with the Destroy Your Hard Drive fund-raiser.

In addition to fund-raisers, Singularity Technology has also “relied on the support given by  Wilton Library and a number of businesses and private individuals,” said Ms. Lauricella.

Nickia said the team stays in touch with the sponsors and updates them on the team’s robot and activities.