Pearl River County robotics team in finals of regional

Published 1:49 am Sunday, March 22, 2009

Team CHAOS has made it into the final round at the Bayou Regional Competition of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Team CHAOS, consisting of students from the Picayune and Pearl River County school districts, was working through some kinks on Friday, the first day of the Bayou Regional Competition.

By the second day, the team had made it to the semifinals and then the finals by Saturday afternoon.

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The Picayune and Pearl River County team was working out some minor problems after their first match Friday. During that match, team CHAOS and their alliance lost the round due to a penalty incurred when one of their teammates allegedly breached the playing field. CHAOS team members did not agree with the ruling from the judges, but pressed on.

This year’s FIRST game was called Lunacy, which involved a slick playing field that mimicked the low gravity conditions found on the surface of the moon. With collisions expected to be common throughout the competition, each team’s robot was required to have bumpers installed as protection.

The object of the game was to shoot as many balls, or cells, onto the trailers attached to the rear of each robot. A number of the robots in the competition had not only included a way to shoot the cells onto the trailers but also pick up loose cells off of the playing field. Team Chaos’ robot had the shooting function worked out but implemented a different strategy to deal with loose cells. Team member Brett Bossier said their robot focused more on pushing loose cells into one of the four storage units on the corners of the playing field. When enough regular cells were placed in storage units, then that team was presented with a super cell worth 15 points if shot into the trailer. Regular cells were worth only two points for the same achievement.

Construction of this year’s robot was based on the principal that simple is better, said team member Mason Becnel. In the past two years, during which both Becnel and Bossier said they were team participants, the robots utilized complex components making them harder to work on.

By Saturday, the team had made it to the semifinals, then proceeded to win its way into the finals, said Team Leader Maureen Pollitz. The robot was working great and the team’s strategy to trade regular cells for supercells was paying off.

“Win or lose, they really have done a fantastic job,” Pollitz said.

Both Bossier and Becnel expect their experiences in robotics to help them in what ever they plan to do after high school. Bossier said he will work towards a career in engineering, which he said the teamwork skills he is building on in robotics will help him achieve.

Becnel is planning to work towards a career in chemistry. While his time in robotics will not directly apply to that field, he said the sense of teamwork and the leadership scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi he received as part of his participation in robotics will help him attain the career he wants.

Team member Devin Herrington said his time in robotics has given him experience that may apply towards his planned field of computer science. Herrington said his current part on Team CHAOS is to program the robot and write code for the website.

No matter the outcome of the Bayou Regional, the team plans to compete in the Lonestar Regional in Texas next week.