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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: October 6th of 2021.

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 practice run, 04/07/21. Ironically, it was named "The Bomb".

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 late 2018 through grant money. The team did not acquire the D2 room until the 2019-2020 school year, when the Robotics Team became an official extra curricular activity after a successful first year (to put it generously). Previously, the room was used as a Spanish classroom. 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 had always been the case until 2021. During the 2019-2020 school year, a Middle School Robotics Team was founded in order to fulfill the conditions for an additional grant. 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. The state of the Middle School team is currently unknown. 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. Due to the overwhelming composition of the team by members of Willemstan (who are almost all class of 2022), there is a very real possibility the robotics team will cease to exist upon their graduation.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.