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Williamston High School Robotics Team

Officially known as "WHS FIRST Robotics" / "Team Vespidae 7818"

Featured Article

This article was last updated on: April 1st of 2022

Image at the top of the screen.

Robot "The Bomb" constructed by the team for the 2021 competition before its unfortunate demise.

"It is a disaster."

- Captain Cody Reeve after the team's robot exploded during a trial run, 04/07/21. Ironically, it was named "The Bomb".

"We are very fortunate in the fact that Charlie did not give weird names to the object classes this year. It was very fun trying to figure out if "penis" or "penus" controls the left motor. It also turns out that naming the objects "joj", "sus", and "lol" would be very confusing. Who would have thought."

- Team member Sean Kavanagh on robot code, 02/05/2022.

"Forgive me OSHA, for I have sinned. I am about to violate electrical code."

- Sean preparing to do a questionable wiring job on the intake motor, 03/24/2022.

Lore

The Williamston High School F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Team is an extra-curricular activity currently located in the D2 room in Williamston High School, and was founded in the first semester of 2018 through grant money. The team did not acquire the D2 room until the 2019-2020 school year, in which the room was illegitimately occupied by the team for several months against Dr. Delp's wishes thanks to Mr. Freeman. Previously, the D2 room was used as a Spanish classroom and science room. The previous robotics room was an abandoned classroom in the C hall, which was turned into a testing room/computer lab after the robotics team left. The robotics team relies on grants and Spina's generosity to stay afloat. The WHS Robotics Team is not to be confused with the robotics elective at Williamston High School.

The team has been coached and lead by Cody Reeve since the team was formed in 2018. Almost all of the people on the team are members of Willemstan, which has always been the case. During the 2019-2020 school year, a Middle School Robotics Team was founded in order to fulfill the conditions for an additional grant. It was coached by Ms. Megan Allen, a science teacher in the district. This team was much more impoverished and substantially lower quality the the high school team. However, this came at a cost, as the WMS team was allowed to use the robotics room at a weekly basis for quite some time. At the start of the 2021 - 2022 school year, the middle school team was disbanded because Ms. Allen resigned from coaching and no successor was established. In early 2021, Dawson Morgan (a former member of Willemstan and former student of WHS) became a mentor of the team for a limited amount of time. A memorial for him was made after his departure. He returned for the 2022 season as well.

The 2022 season marked the final season for many members of the team, since those who founded the team in 2018 during their freshman year were ultimately the only consistent members, and were seniors by the time of the 2022 season. Their graduation left has left the team with very few members. In addition, Cody announced that the 2022 season would be his last. His successor will be Mr. Kersten, a Williamston High School math, robotics, and personal finance teacher who has been in the district since the early 2000s.

There was apparently a robotics team at Williamston High School before this one, which partnered with Okemos High School's team.


Ruthless Advertising - "Please join the Robotics Team"

The Robotics Team is well known for its determination to get more members. There has been constant advertising in the Willemstan Discord Server, as well as the Williamston Weekly announcements in 2019. "Please join the Robotics Team, we need more members", coined by Charlie and Sean, has become the team's motto and recruiting pitch. In the 2019 season, the team had 7 members, while in the 2020 season, the team had around 12. So the pitch seemed to have worked. However, in 2021, the team had little opportunity to advertise in the school. For the 2021 season, there were only 8-10 members. For the 2022 season, membership reached a record high. Several members of Willemstan re-joined the team, and many younger people (not class of 2022) joined the team, significantly boosting our numbers.


Members

Head Coach:

Mentors:

Slaves:


Humble Beginnings

The Robotics Team came into being as a result of the STEAM Initiative for Williamston Community Schools, heavily pushed by Dr. Spina and the school board. Two grants were given to WCS during 2018, providing enough funding to keep robotics team funded for at least two years. The team was located in an unused classroom in the C-hallway, the smallest hall in the high school which is primarily used for a few of electives. In terms of getting a coach, WHS graduate Cody Reeve agreed to mentor the team as a favor for Tala's family. The first year and season for the team served as a trial run, as the team was not yet an official extra-curricular activity. In late 2019, the team received an additional grant that could only be used on tools. This was mostly spent on three 3D-printers, which the team didn't figure out how to use until the 2021 - 2022 school year.

How the team came into possession of the D2 classroom is a funny story. In May 2019, the team wanted a size upgrade from the small C-hall classroom. However, WHS Principal Dr. Delp refused to even investigate the matter, so Mrs. Eichler called up WHS vice-principal Mr. Freeman and asked him to find a room the team could use. Mr. Freeman was a friend of Mrs. Eichler and was set to retire at the end of the year. This new room ended up being D2, an old science classroom in the building that was being used as a Spanish classroom. The teacher in there, Miss Mitchell (now Mrs. Potere), was already planning to move out of the classroom, but lots of random stuff from previous Spanish teachers was left behind. In what became known as the D2 Salvage Operation, team members helped Miss Mitchell remove the stuff from the classroom. Some of this stuff was even taken home by Charlie and Sean for the low price of free, since the school had no use for any of it.

Dr. Delp was not aware of this arrangement, and Mr. Freeman retired at the end of that school year. So the team was illegitimately occupying the room for many months until Delp found out about it towards the end of 2020.


2019 Robotics Season - "Doomba"

The first season for the robotics team, as those in the business would call it, was a fucking mess. Well, it wasn't that bad, as the team did manage to construct a functional robot and earned a few points for their team. Two qualifiers were held, but the team never got any further. However, Dr. Spina and Cody were very proud of the robotics team's first season, and as a result they received plenty of promotion on the WCS YouTube Channel, and even some local press coverage.

The game itself involved the placement of circular panels onto velcro strips, though they are officially known as "hook and loop tape". Bots with specialized designs could place balls behind these panels, which would further contribute to your score. However, the team suffered a significant issue early on, as the arm/claw on the robot made of PVC pipe was not able to function properly. Turns out, even the mighty zip tie has trouble constraining such weightlessness, so it was scrapped, after falling off multiple times without even being used once. This left the team without any scoring apparatus, condemning the WHS bot to the dreaded "defense" role for their team. For those unacquainted, defense is using your own bot to prevent the other team from scoring points, essentially impacting the efficiency of the other team while your other teammates use their bots to actually score points. This has the potential to make up for (or even surpass) the loss your own team suffers from only having two fully-functioning robots. You also must be careful to avoid intentionally hitting the other team's bots (or make it seem like an accident). In case if you were wondering, these other robots on your team are supplied by two other separate teams from different schools, forming a trinity of mechanical mayhem. Sean Kavanagh was the designated robot driver in the 2019 season as everyone else who tried driving proved incompetent at best. You can find detailed results here. Following the competition, the Doomba was abandoned.


2020 Robotics Season - "The Bomb"

New Robotics Room

At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the team gained a much larger room for robotics. This room is known as "D2", and is located in the D-hallway in Williamston High School, and is nearly twice the size of the old room. In addition to being granted this classroom, the team also had access to two adjacent storage rooms.

Preparations

The bot for the 2020 Robotics competition was named "The Bomb". Unfortunately, due to the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, WHS shut down, meaning the team no longer has access to the robotics room. Additionally, the competition itself was indefinitely postponed. Despite this, the team accomplished a lot before the shutdown, as it used its heavily increased funding (over $25K from 1 grant alone) to purchase tools, get more members, and build an actual good robot. However, since the school shut down just as competitions were beginning, the bot was never used that year, to the dismay of the team.


2020 Additions

Main article: The Information Technology Men

On April 17th of 2020, upgrades to the robotics room began. Two new 3D printers were added, which means there are now a total of three 3D printers total. Computers were moved around, greatly increasing desk space. However, these upgrades came at a cost. All of the computers were added to the school network and had windows updated, which means all of the data on them was presumed lost initially. However, the System IV computer survived the assimilation process because the IT Men could not get into it. Yet, the updated computers had much more intensive restrictions placed on them, to the point where they began to hinder the team's coding department in 2021.

This was the System IV computer. It is protected by several locks, and can appear off when it is running due to the fact that some of the lights were removed. Once an iconic feature of the room, it hasn't been at the school since July of 2020.


2021 Robotics Season - "The Bomb"

Preparations

Planning for the season began on October 9th of 2020. A meeting finally occurred on January 13th of 2021, and there were no new members (due to a lack of advertising). The challenge for the 2021 season is similar to the 2020 season, but more options are available. At the second meeting, some new members arrived. The team also decided that they would be reusing "The Bomb" because the bot was pretty much unused and fully functional. However, they had to make some minor changes due to new competition details and rules. A huge "B" was inscribed on the back of the robot in order to identify the back from the front. Charlie and Sean were forced to bring it home in order to fix the stupidly over-engineered electronics and shitty coding software. Malcolm attended robotics virtually due to the pandemic.

Sean did not want to be drive team again, so members of the robotics team participated in a time trial in March to determine a new driver. Each member of the team drove the robot on a course, Joey got the fastest score with 18 seconds. However, he hit a pedestrian and was penalized with an additional 5 seconds. Sean scored 21 seconds without hitting anything, making him the winner of the competition. As a result, Sean remained the driver of the robot, but Joey was appointed sub-driver. Eli and Joey developed a CNC machine that was finished in April. Under Cody's command, Joey was tasked with reviving the "Doomba" - the first robot built by the team - to use a test and backup bot. However, he was unable to accomplish this.

The Competition

During April the team had to record a six videos of the robot to submit to FIRST Robotics. Charlie and Joey spent an entire meet to get an editing software ready. While that occurred, the rest of the team was helping Sean practice driving and scoring for the recordings. During the practice in the robotics, the arm of the robot suffered gradual damage and was unable to fully lift. Cody suggested turning the arm's motor up to 100% power. Charlie said "wont that overheat the motor", to which Cody responded with "probably not". The arm functioned properly once again, and the practice runs continued. Sean kept ramming into the goal post during the trials on accident, which damaged the post, and the robot began to smell. After a while, the motor stopped functioning due to running at 100% capacity for an extended period of time. The bot soon burst into smoke and stunk up the room.

After the robot stopped smoking, the team assessed the robot for damage. The frame was intact, but the motor was completely destroyed along with many of the electronics, which were packed close to the motor. With the bot completely dead, and no time left to repair the bot, Cody suggested submitting earlier test videos from past meets. However, there were only four of them, but the team decided to submit the videos anyway. With no chance of making the competition due to the untimely demise of The Bomb, the team entered off-season prematurely. At one point, Charlie sat on the lifter for the robot, severely damaging it.


2022 Season - "Adam Spina"

Preparations

Over the summer, the team purchased two additional robot kits to construct. This means the robotics team now has three robots total, including the remains of The Bomb. One of the new robots had treads for wheels, while the other had a new type of wheel which allowed for sharper turns. This way, the team gets to experiment with three different types of wheels. While progress was slow during off-season, the two new robots were assembled minus electronics by the conclusion of the first meet. By September 22nd of 2021 (the 5th meet), one of the new robots (unofficially named "The Tank") became fully functional. This was accomplished with the help of Gage Rocheleau, an apprentice from Bekum, a local machine shop that sponsored the team for the 2022 season. However, due to restrictions crafted by the IT Men on the robotics computers, the team is unable to wirelessly interact with The Tank. As a result, we had to string a massive Ethernet cable across the entire room in order to directly link to the robot. In other news, The Bomb was still under development. The electronics were still being reconfigured and set up, and the lifter Charlie sat on was still being repaired by the build team. The following meet, the electronics in The Tank were made presentable, wireless connection to The Tank was completed, and the team loaded up several of our bots for a showcase at Bekum.

The Tank (left) and The Bomb (right) on the robotics floor during September 22nd of 2021.

The showcase at Bekum occurred on October 2nd of 2021 at 10:00am, and went okay for the first two hours. The Bomb was the designated display bot, while The Tank was driven around by both team members and visitors. Dawson Morgan was present at the event, and was easily the best driver out of all of us, as our official driver Sean Kavanagh was not attending the meeting. There were a couple minor mishaps. Malcolm ran over and crushed a cone, and Ian accidentally (but thankfully lightly) crashed The Tank into a wall, breaking a zip-tie. The team had to reinforce the bot's electronics with additional zip-ties as a result. The team also experienced the usual battery issues with the bot, but also some random disconnection issues. However, disaster truly stuck at around 12:00pm, when one of The Tank's gearboxes broke. The left side refused to turn, and a chunk of left side's gearbox was missing. The team did not have the software needed to get The Bomb functional, and so the team was left without a demonstration bot for the remaining two hours of the event.

October 6th of 2021 was the first robotics meeting following the Bekum event. Unfortunately, David, our main engineer, was absent. The team planned to salvage a gearbox from the decommissioned Doomba in order to repair The Tank, since the team lacked the funds to simply order a new component. While taking apart the left side of The Tank was fairly straightforward, the Doomba was a much harder nut to crack. Due to how it was designed, the team had to take apart the entire robot in order to remove the gearbox & motor. Parker and others tasked with decommissioning the Doomba grew frustrated over the inconsistency in screw sizes used, and eventually resorted to cutting through the screws with a saw. By the end of the meet, one of the gearboxes was finally harvested. This meeting pretty much ended the Doomba.

By the end of the next meet, the Tank was restored to working order. Work on restoring the electronics and code of The Bomb took several meets, but eventually it was made operational as well. However, some of the electronics in the Bomb gave out soon after that, leaving the team with only one complete set of electronics.

The Competition

In early January, the season kick off occurred. For the 2022 season, robots would have to score points by shooting balls into hoops and climbing bars in the air. The decision was made to take the Tank out back like old yeller and use it's electronics to restore the Bomb. The Tank currently rests in the second storage room. Much of January was spent overcoming software issues, caused mostly by the IT Men who frequently uninstalled our software and restricted our computers. Even Cody's so called admin account was unable to install the needed software. Charlie was eventually able to get the software working on a non-school computer with the tor browser installed. Also during January, the build team focused on making a wooden prototype ball launcher. It was not completed until February 12th. The prototype had immense power behind it. Powered by two motors and a battery normally used for driving the robots, it was able to launch a ball across the classroom, though not very high. However, the prototype shook violently while powered up, slowly shaking itself apart while in use. By the end of the day, a motor managed to tear itself free from the wooden frame, and an axel had bent beyond repair. Also on February 12th, the Bomb regained driving functionality. By the time of the first competition, the hooks and the bot was generally operational, although the launcher never passed prototype phase.

First Event (March 3rd - 5th)

During this competition, since we couldn't legally refer to our robot as "The Bomb", the team decided to call the robot the "Adam Spina", after the superintendent. For the completion, the team completed many matches, but struggled at first. For the first couple matches, the bot kept shutting down within seconds of the match starting. Three inspectors looked at the bot, and were unable to determine the problem. Eventually, it was found that the issue was the robot was missing the voltage regulator. Installing one fixed the issue. Since the launcher was never completed, the Spina was stuck on the infamous defense role, but was able to reliably score points on the hanging bars. The team placed 32nd out of 34.

Second Event (March 24th - 26th)

During the weeks after the first event, Collin Key and other members of build team raced to construct some sort of scoring apparatus. Rather than go for a launcher again, the team decided to instead do a lifter design. Balls would be sucked into the lifter, and then raised up and dropped into the lower of the two hoops. The lifter was completed in the nick of time, or so we thought.

During the setup day of the competition, we discovered that the intake of the launcher was too wide and was brushing against the hooks. To fix the problem without exceeding the size limit, two of the four hooks were cut in half, reducing the Spina's climbing effectiveness. This proved to be a mistake. We tested the climbing ability of the robot right after, and one of the hooks snapped in half upon impact with the lower bar. It turned out that four hooks was kind of necessary in order to hold the weight of the robot properly. We brought two spares, and went through both during the competition. Eventually, we just decided to stick a bunch of scrap wood on the two full hooks to increase their strength.

In the end, it turned out the sacrificing of the hooks was a net negative. We tested the raising mechanism of the launcher before our first match. It snapped immediately. It turned out that build team had not properly attached the motorized lifting mechanism to the launcher, using effectively only a piece of scrap metal and two bolts. It could not possibly bear the stress of being pushed up. Since we didn't bring spare bolts and had most of our downtime between matches taken up by the hook situation, the lifter was never made functional. Eventually, during a match in which one of the supports for the lifter was damaged, the team just decided to do a full amputation and removed the non-functional lifter entirely.

Despite these setbacks, and the Spina was much more reliable than the previous match. Thanks to actually having all the electronic parts we needed this time around, there was only one match in which the Spina was nonfunctional. Thanks to our team's driver Riley Chandel being an absolute god, we scored 20th out of the 40 some robots at the competition, the team's performance to date.


The Fire in the Robotics Room

On January 15th of 2020, Cody sent a message to the Robotics Team using Slack, reporting a fire in the Robotics Room. This really wasn't much of a surprise, as there are many flammable objects in the Robotics Room, as well as generally unsafe modifications to several computers. It more provided shock value and laughs than anything. It turns out the fire was started by a younger sibling of a member of the Robotics Team. He and some friends used flint igniter from a science room and school work to start the fire. He had to quit robotics as a result, and apologized to the Robotics Team, offering licorice as a token of forgiveness. As a result of this incident, team members were forbidden from entering the robotics room without staff supervision.

The message sent by Cody, asking about the fire.