Members of the Andover VEX Robotics Club will be sending a robot to the VEX Robotics State Championships. Andover’s team, Parallax, advanced one of their two robots, Robot A, to the final round and won the “Excellence Award” for best overall performance, during their first competition of the season over break. Qualifying for States is the first step towards competing at World Championships, which the team had attended twice before.
“[The] competition went really well. For the first time, there were no mistakes or faulty mechanisms, and I think that was really great because it shows that our program has improved over the three years of its existence. I think that this year, with so many new members and a lot of engagement from everyone on the team, competitions have just run more smoothly,” said Jocelyn Shen ’18, co-head of the Andover VEX Robotics Club.
Given the number of members who joined the team this year, Parallax decided to enter two robots, Robot A and Robot B, into the competition. While Robot A was mostly built by more experienced members, Robot B gives those new to the club a chance to participate in the building process and experiment with different designs.
“I think that we’re improving a lot because, compared to last year when we didn’t even have a second robot to bring to the competition, we’re really growing and getting better. One of the improvements that we’ve been trying to make all year is to try and get everyone on the team involved in building and coding. That’s a problem we had last year; some people didn’t feel like they got the opportunity to show their skills,” said Herbie Turner ’18, a team member.
The challenge for this year’s competition was called “In the Zone,” in which teams scored points by programming their robots to stack and move as many cones as possible into various zones. Each match also had a driver-controlled period, in which the robot was controlled by a person rather than code.
Nathan Wang ’19, a team member and the driver for Robot A, said, “I guess you can build a great robot, but if the driver doesn’t do well with it, then all the effort kind of goes to waste… I can’t fall under pressure because, if I do, then we’re done. I’m lucky enough to be naturally good under pressure, [but] my teammates help me a lot… I can’t do it without them.”
Having participated in this competition for the past two years, Parallax values the opportunity to analyze robots from other teams and to collaborate.
“Competition is a really good way to see what other people are doing, how [the robot] works on the field, [and] especially to just be with other people who are interested in robotics. Alliances [pairings between teams from different schools] can be very fun. Working together with a team you’ve never met is something really important. It’s a skill you have to develop,” said Amanda Li ’18, a team member.
The VEX Robotics Club gives students the opportunity to compete in robotics competitions throughout the year and is open to anyone, regardless of experience.
“VEX is a smaller scale competition, so it’s more accepting of beginners… There’s obviously a lot of work in the program, but it’s easier for beginners to get involved in that work,” said co-head Jeffrey Shen ’19.
In preparation for their next competition, the Southern New England Championships, Parallax hopes to improve both of their robots. Currently, the team is focusing specifically on adopting successful techniques from Robot A onto Robot B in order to improve the overall efficiency of the robots.
“For competitive goals, we’re hoping to get both of our [robots] to the World Championships. We’ve gotten one of our [robots] to the World Championships for two years. This year, our goal is to get the second [robot] to Worlds as well. With regards to goals for the program, I’d say we’re really looking for new and engaged members who are just happy to be there for robotics,” said Jocelyn Shen.
Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Shen ’19 is an Associate Digital Editor for The Phillipian.