Picking up the speed for Nationals

Several Millard West “Catbotics” teams partake in a regional competition

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photo courtesy of Michael Nigrila

Posing with their team name, seniors Michael Nigrila, Mark Schaffer, and college freshman Luke Hartman participate at the VEX “Change Up” Robotics Championship at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs. Their competition was for the most part a victory for the Millard West’s robotic teams. “It was a very enjoyable experience interacting and partaking in this event,” senior Michael Nigrila said, “We also got the opportunity to socialize with teams from other schools and we had some downtime with a former team member (Luke Hartman) at the end of the competition.”

Jordan Bakar, Staff Reporter

On Saturday, Feb. 4, four Millard West Robotics teams participated in the VEX State Robotics Competition named “Change-Up” at Thomas Jefferson High School. The main objective of this competition was to collect as many balls as possible through a robot mechanical system. 

This tournament included 39 other teams from various states including Montana, Missouri and Iowa, which allows the team to compete in a highly diversified environment.

Prior to the event, the four Millard West “CatBotics” teams, which included a total of 12 Millard West students from all grade levels, have all spent an extensive amount of time during the last few months preparing, creating, and testing the robots out for this event. Even with the current pandemic situation, the teams have spent countless hours on Zoom planning and discussing their plans.

“We didn’t do as well as we wanted with this competition, but the outcome was still favorable,” senior Danial Bragg said. We finished Top 8 and Top 10 in the Skills competition. We will make some modifications for this competition that will help us do better in the upcoming event.”

Everyone on the team had specific duties that they were responsible for. Some of these designated roles included: building the robot and making sure it is set-up correctly, making sure the robot moves to where it needs to be as being a driver or co-driver of the robot, and programming or writing the script for the robot to execute.

“I was mainly in charge of making strategic calls and relaying information to our teams,” senior Brandon Swanson said. “This mainly consisted of the plays that occurred on the competition field which I then helped to communicate to our teams.”

With these competitions, the team members always need to be prepared to expect the unexpected. Regardless of all the final adjustments and precautions, all the teams made prior to the event, they, unfortunately, experienced a few issues with their robot and its mechanical structure. The process of making sure that everything plays out accurately is not an easy challenge to overcome.

“The cipher in my robot jammed up during the late stages in the competition,” senior Micheal Nigrila said. I want to make some modifications to our bot, so that this doesn’t occur in the next competition. Our teams spent all day on Wednesday and Thursday testing our bots to make sure that they worked properly for the competition, but we will spend more adequate time to avoid these persistent issues. I will also build upon some of the codings I worked on in the past week to be more consistent.”

All things considered, the four Millard West “CatBotics” teams have all gained beneficial experiences that they will not ignore for the Nationals competition.

“There are a few areas of improvement that we need to take a closer look at, but overall, not too many,” Schaffer said. It was very enjoyable to socialize with other teams and interact with them. 

The Millard West CatBotics team members have been successful this year, despite the restraints that the Coronavirus has brought. Nationals are undetermined as of now due to Covid, but the Millard West CatBotics teams believe that they will be able to qualify. 

The next scheduled competition is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, at Omaha North High School.