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Robotics Elective

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This article was last updated on: November 13th of 2021

Image at the top of the screen.

Roboticus Maximus 1 developed by team "John Gere". Photo taken on September 22nd of 2021.

"You let me design things Ian."

- Jacob Keith on the unstable condition of Roboticus Maximus 3, 10/26/21.


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"Robotics" is an elective at Williamston High School taught by Mr. Kersten. He has taught the class since at the mid 2000s, and has likely been the only robotics teacher. Many members of Willemstan have taken the robotics elective, or at least had Mr. Kersten as a teacher at some point. Due to it being an underfunded elective and a Kersten class, the curriculum heavily involves Khan Academy. When Khan Academy is not being used, students get to use Lego Mindstorms to build robots and compete with other classmates. While the elective is really only meant to be taken once, there is additional Khan Academy curriculum for anyone who takes Robotics a second time. Robotics is only offered as one class in one semester per school year, making it high demand.

2021 - 2022 School Year (1st Semester)

For robotics in the 2021 - 2022 school year, Willemstan citizens Andrew Batten, Ian Hampton, and Jacob Keith have the class. The three of them formed team "John Gere", which was initially mistaken by Mr. Kersten to be "John Deere". Collin Key is also in the class, a sophomore who would later join the WHS Robotics Team and become a citizen of Willemstan.

Robots Constructed by Team John Gere

Roboticus Maximus 1 (September 2021)

The first of the Roboticus Maximus series was developed in mid-September. This was for the drag race competition, in which all teams had to design a bot that traveled as fast as possible in a (roughly) straight line. The development of the bot went well at first, with the motors designed to power one side of the bot each to emulate the turning design used in the robotics team robots. However, as development continued, Roboticus Maximus began to fair poorly. After the computer module was added, it was discovered that the bot could not support its own weight. The robot was visibly sagging inward since all of the weight was concentrated in the middle of the bot. The bot appeared almost cube-like. Several pieces on the bot's underside were cracking under the weight of the robot. While Ian designed a "spine" for the back of the robot to resolve the sagging problem, the bot was still much slower than the other teams'. It had many unnecessary gears, and those that were needed did not align properly, making a loud clicking noise as a result. After Mr. Kersten extended the deadline by a week, the team decided to scrap Roboticus Maximus to do a total rebuild.

Roboticus Maximus 2 (September 2021 - October 2021)

Roboticus Maximus 2 (aka "The Chariot") was intended to be vastly superior to the original Roboticus Maximus. It was designed to be lighter and faster, and use only three wheels instead of four. As a result, the robot was much longer lengthwise than widthwise, similar to bots developed by other teams. However, the clicking problem still persisted. After receiving advice from Mr. Kersten, the team totally redid the gear system of the bot, adopting a new system Andrew called the "John Gere Ratio". The idea of the John Gere Ratio is to use as few gears as possible, reducing the total gear count to only two gears. One large gear, one small gear, and one axle for maximum gear ratio and efficiency. This achieved mixed results. Roboticus Maximus 2 was intended to have its front wheel be facing forward, with the last two wheels being powered by the motors. However, the robot was simply unable to drive forward, because the gears would totally dislodge themselves due to a poorly made axle. Yet, the robot functioned perfectly in reverse. As a result, team John Gere opted to just drive the robot in reverse for the competition.

Unfortunately, Roboticus Maximus 2 did not do well in the drag race competition. It was able to clear the short track in 10 seconds, which was a decent time, but slightly behind everyone the robot went up against. After a narrow loss in the winners bracket, Roboticus Maximus 2 was defeated by an even slimmer margin in the losers bracket. The long distance race was canceled, which was tragic because it seemed Roboticus Maximus 2 was one of the few bots in the class that could actually drive in a straight line. Despite this, the team still got a good grade on the assignment. Following the end of the competition in late September, the robot sat on a shelf in Kersten's class for many weeks.

Roboticus Maximus 3 (October 2021 - Present)

In late October, the second competition for Robotics begun. The teams had to design a robot that could navigate a maze using a sensor. Kersten advised that all teams focus on stability rather than speed, and not to care about the gear ratio. He also took away all of the large wheels from all of the teams, forcing all teams to use the same medium-sized wheels. On the first day of building, team John Gere decommissioned Roboticus Maximus 2. They began to build Roboticus Maximus 3, a robot that will be of a similar design, but featuring a sensor and unconnected motors (like the original Roboticus Maximus). By the end of the first week, the team had created a functioning robot. During the coding phase, the robot was given the nickname "Wall-eck".

However, just like with all past robots, things did not go very smoothly. The front wheel was static, and as a result, created a lot of jittering when the robot made a turn. Progress was significant delayed due to some procrastination, in which many ridiculous modifications were added to the bot. This included rows of gears on the top, a tail piece that was several feet long, and the addition of a lego piece that looked like the male genitalia onto the rear of the robot. During the second week of November, more actual progress on the robot was finally made. The static wheel was scrapped in favor of a front wheel that allows for near zero-turn. While this problem was finally solved, the maze competition has nearly run its course, and the team suffers from battery issues that are uncannily similar to the WHS Robotics Team.