McCann Tech Robotics Team Demonstrates for School Committee

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Students on the robotics team hold a demonstration for School Committee members on Thursday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Technical School's robotics team look to expand the program and come back even stronger next year.

The team, the Mad McCannics, ran a demonstration with their competition robot "Mac" at Thursday night's School Committee meeting.

They recently returned from a FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying competition for high school and middle school students.

"It was quite a day," said team adviser Erin Mucci. "The kids did a fabulous job and our robot competed admirably."

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a 25-year-old nonprofit focused on providing programming for youth.

Team member Evan Delmolino explained that this year's challenge was called the Cascade Effect. He said the team had to design a robot that could pick up balls, drop them into different height tubes, and then push the tubes onto a ramp. This is how the team scored points.

"You can only hold five balls so we had to design a couple of different things to make sure we didn't hold too many or too few," Delmolino said. "We also had to figure out a way to get up to the different heights."

He said the robot used multiple arms to raise the ball basket and drop them in.

Team adviser Perry Burdick said it was easy to lose points by running into things with the robot.

"The more you get up the better, but if you knock them over you give points to the other team so there were a lot of little aspects of this competition," Perry said.

Team member Owen Canales said the first 30 seconds of the completion were automated, meaning the robot had to be programmed. The last two minutes, team members carefully control the robots with remotes.

He added that there are two teams in the ring with two robots apiece. There are four robots trying to accomplish these goals at the same time.

"It's random pairing so one minute you are competing against each other and the next minute you are allies, so it's pretty interesting," Canales said.

Mucci said some other teams were walking around with clipboards asking about other robots before the matches started so they could better strategize.  

Burdick said the students had to harness strong problem-solving skills to build and use the robot.

The robot had to load balls into different sized tubes; part of the programming had to be automated.

"The pest part of the whole thing was the problem solving," Burdick said.

"We had one problem solving activity after the next," he said. "That robot is really only the inspiration, and the brain power comes from the students. Every single person on the team has something to do."

Team member William Kipp said a huge part of the process was prototyping. Originally the team wanted to use a scissor lift mechanism but had to quickly change designs when they learned it would be too slow.

"We came up with designs, wrote it on paper, went through designs, and saw what mechanics of it would work," Kipp said.

Mucci said the robot is totally designed and built by the students. She said some parts are purchased and others are made at McCann.

Superintendent James Brosnan praised the students for their hard work and dedication.

"There are weekends, there are evenings, and there are nights. This is full-time school, full-time everything, and full-time robotics," he said. "The practice, the building, the going through the trouble shooting as a team. This is a very highly motivated group."

Mucci said most of the team consists of juniors and sophomores so they will be strong team next year. She said completion teams have to consist of 15 students, but they want to expand the program.

"We want to take on another five or six students," she said. "We are figuring out the plan moving forward right now and opening up the door for some new students for this spring."

Tags: competition,   McCann,   robotics,   

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North Adams Council Passes $41M Budget for Fiscal 2021

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council approved a $41 million budget for fiscal 2021 on Tuesday along with using close to $300,000 in reserve funds despite concerns expressed by several councilors.
The total amount to be raised is $40,939,756, up $134,218, or 0.33 percent, from last year. Some $11,369.776 has already been spent over the past three months through continuing appropriations caused by delays in the state budget because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
"This is now coming on really six months of a budget process," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "We typically start talking about the budget with the Finance Committee in March, and this year we had our first conversation in late April because following the shutdown at the state and local levels, there was just so much uncertainty ... it made sense to pursue several months of continuation budgets, with the goal of bringing forward this budget now for you in October."
The budget on its own did not generate much discussion overall but the use of $320,427 in reserve funds to offset the amount to be raised by taxes did.
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