On the last Sunday of spring break Culver City High School (CCHS) robotics team Coach Alex Davis received an invitation for the Bagel Bytes to participate in the 2017 First robotics championships in St. Louis. This was very exciting, but they would have to leave in two and a half weeks, and he knew they didn’t have enough money to pay for all of the travel expenses. So Davis emailed the team about the invitation and asked them: do we want to go and can we raise the money to do it?
Working against a tight deadline is nothing new for the Bagel Bytes. Every January, First robotics teams like theirs receive a detailed list of the tasks their robots will have to accomplish in order to compete that year. Then they have just six weeks to design and build their robots. It’s intense.
This year’s theme was Steamworks, a sci-fi fantasy of rockets propelled by steam power and clockwork mechanisms. Each ‘airship’ would have four rotors. The robots would have to retrieve and deliver gears to get their rotors going, put wiffle balls into baskets provide fuel for the airships, and, finally, climb up onto the rockets by rope before ‘take-off.’ Points would be earned for each task accomplished.
The Bagel Bytes got to work. They had to come up with both big ideas and very specific plans. They used CAD design. Their design could make use of standard components, as well as unique parts created with their shop’s lathe (funded by CCEF) and 3-D printer. They wrote software to make the robot work. They tested and refined their robot, and created the most reliable robot the team had ever brought to competition.
One of the keys to that reliability was an incredibly accurate vision targeting system using a Pixy camera with a ring of green LEDs around its lens. Software created by team Captain and Head Programmer Ezra Reese with guidance from one of the team mentors, Raytheon engineer Scott Baron, made it work.
After the competition season ended and the software had proven itself, the team voted to make it open-source so that next year every team could have an accurate vision targeting capability. That generosity of spirit is an example of Gracious Professionalism, a core value of the FIRST robotics experience. (These competitions are about a lot more than engineering.)
This year the Bagel Bytes participated in competitions in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and when Coach Davis told them they had been invited to the championship competition in St. Louis, they really wanted to go. They quickly put on a couple of fundraisers, but they didn’t have enough time to raise all of the money they needed. The District was able to give them a little help by paying the travel costs for their chaperones. Then CCEF stepped in to make up the difference and get them championship T-shirts with logos designed by the team. The Bagel Bytes captain and drive team headed for St. Louis.
Reese says, “Being able to go to championships this year was a dream come true.” The Bagel Bytes had worked hard and that trip gave them “a chance to compete against the best of the best.” In the end they ranked 27th out of 68 in their division, and none of them will ever forget the experience. “I cannot thank everyone at the Ed Foundation enough for supporting us,” said Reese.
CCEF is proud to raise funds to propel every CCUSD student Full STEAM Ahead! Join us in making a difference in students’ lives by giving a generous donation today at www.ccef4schools.org or by sending a check to CCEF, P.O. Box 4178, Culver City, CA 90231.