SNOHOMISH — This robot can throw balls into a basket, swing across monkey bars and, as one student put it, “win competitions.”
“The kids are doing amazing things,” Sonic Squirrels club adviser Sean Wilson said. “In just over six weeks, they designed and built this robot.”
Now the Snohomish School District’s robotics team is heading to a world competition in Houston.
The 2022 FIRST Championship is an international competition over four days, with 400 teams from 40 countries, Wilson said. The Henry M. Jackson High School team, Jack in the Bot, is also heading to Texas from the Everett School District.
Only 18 out of more than 120 teams from Washington, Oregon and Alaska are competing. The Sonic Squirrels qualified based on their performance at three competitions this year.
“We were winners, finalists and semi-finalists at three different competitions,” said student Sydney Pemble, the team’s operations officer. “We were in the top five for basically every competition.”
The Sonic Squirrels team has about 50 students from Glacier Peak High School and Snohomish High School. The team named its robot “Pteromyini,” the scientific name for flying squirrels.
“Every year we name our robot based off of one thing that relates to the game,” Pemble said. “This game is based on transportation and airplanes, specifically.”
The teams design their robot for a different game every year. The games typically involve shooting and climbing, but the students don’t know the specifics until January. The first competition was in March.
“Everything has to be built from scratch,” said student Dina Gamous, the team’s safety officer. “You can’t start building until you know what the game is.”
The team spent the first week on general prototyping and collaborating on the design, student and engineering officer Ethan Jorde said.
“We take ideas about how to solve the problem and look at constraints we have to follow,” said Jorde.
The 2022 game is Rapid React. The robot must climb monkey bars, drive autonomously for 15 seconds and launch large tennis balls into goals on a field. The game lasts 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
“The first 15 seconds is completely autonomous, meaning there’s no driver control,” said student Chase Adisurja, the team’s finance officer. “It’s all programming.”
The team competes with one robot throughout the season but can make improvements. Pemble said the monkey bars are the most challenging part of the game.
“It’s inclining, so our robots will swing across and try to get as high as possible,” Pemble said.
The students typically specialize in different areas, such as building or programming.
“We have 50 people and one robot, so we have to divide the work,” Jorde said. “A lot of people are specialists in certain parts of the robot.”
Wilson said the students learn a wide range of skills. The Sonic Squirrels have a business team that finds sponsors and grants. It also has teams for boosting morale and managing inventory. On the more technical side, students learn about engineering, programming and manufacturing.
“People don’t really understand that it’s more than just the robot,” Wilson said. “There’s so much more beside that.”
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.