Bucket O Bolts will receive a few upgrades before the state competition.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The "Mad McCannics" robotics team will be competing in the state robotics competition this March.
The McCann Technical School students have been busy the past few weeks perfecting their champion robot "Bucket O Bolts."
"Today, we have to put a few of the new components in and then we are going to hopefully have time to take it into the arena and test it," 10th-grader Devon Ryll-Spencer said during a preview on Wednesday. "Get it working right."
The Mad McCannics are fresh off a victory from last month's regional competition in Andover where Bucket O' Bolts qualified for the FIRST Tech Challenge State Robotics Competition by taking a second place against 18 other teams.
Adviser Erin Mucci said all of the students on the team are new to robotics and that this is new ground for the after-school program, now in its fourth year.
"This is the first time that we have ever gone to states," she said. "It's cool. We were shocked and excited."
Mucci said robots compete in an arena and gain points by performing tasks such as stacking foam blocks or getting on and off a platform. She said each round is 2 minutes 30 seconds long.
Advisor Perry Burdick noted that the recent competition was, at times, touch and go.
"First match we went in and we were kicking but I thought we were doing great," he said. "We got to the second match and the arm fell off."
By the third match, things didn't get any better.
"The guys were in a hurry they fixed the arm and went to change the battery and when they cut the zip tie that holds the battery in place they cut the wire to the arm," he said. "They had about 10 seconds and they didn't know they cut the wire so when they got back out there the arm didn't work."
Burdick said the team thought they were done for however were saved by some of the early big scores they were able to pull in.
"We thought we were losing points left and right, so we fixed everything," he said. "We had a couple of good matches, so we thought we would suck it up and look at our score and we were in fifth place."
The Mad McCannics do not expect this kind of scare this time and 10th grader David Deblois said they plan to make a few improvements.
"We are going to add a sensor, and we are going to add a mechanical arm to get the block out of the claw easier," he said. "We are adding stuff it lacked last time. The entire competition was like one big test to see what we could improve on for this competition."
Eleventh-grader Thai Kaczowski agreed and said a lot of their training is troubleshooting.
Ryll-Spencer said two students drive the robot: one controls the wheels and the other controls the arm via video game controllers. Students connect a cell phone to the robot which acts as a receiver.
Kaczowski said they use an application and have to actually program the robot.
Ryll-Spencer said during January's competition there was an automation match in which the robot is preprogrammed to undergo tasks at the push of a button without human control
Burdick said they were able to gather a few points this way.
"It was last minute because we always do everything last minute ... but we came up with this automation thing that all it did was go from a platform to a safe zone and it just did it very well," he said. "It got us a lot of points."
Mucci added that the team also gained points from alliances they built. Teams from different schools work together in this competition.
"Teams don't build a robot that can do every possible task so when you form alliances in the semifinals teams pick who they want to compete with," she said. "The kids have to learn some communication skills because they have to talk to the other teams and figure out what their robots do well."
FIRST, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," was established in the late 1980s to engage students in technology. The nonprofit also sponsors Lego League and technology challenges to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.
On Wednesday, the Mad McCannics took Bucket O Bolts to their home arena in the library and gave it a quick test ride. They toyed with their "turbo button" that gave the robot a quick burst of speed and stacked a few foam blocks without the pressure of a time limit for some practice.
The Mad McCannics compete March 3 at Natick High School for the state title in a face off against more than 30 other teams.
"I think we will do pretty good I am pretty confident," Kaczowski said.
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