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The field where the robots performed is shown, with the fire robot in the middle and Gatorade bottles and wooden blocks acting as people in need of rescue and trees.

AUSD hosts second annual Robotics Challenge

The second annual Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) Robotics Challenge hosted 12 teams from Alhambra High School, Mark Keppel High School, and San Gabriel High School on April 7. The students, organized in groups from two to six, were judged in three categories: design (how the robot was built), academic value (how mathematical and scientific concepts were applied in building the robot), and performance (how the robot fared in the competition).

This year’s challenge, on which performance was judged, simulated robot ambulances rescuing people from a fire. Two teams competed at a time, starting their robots from opposite corners and then maneuvering them around wooden obstacles (trees) and an autonomous robot that served as a “fire wizard,” all while trying to rescue half-empty Gatorade bottles (people) by grabbing them with their robot and returning them to their hospitals in the corners parallel to their starting point. In order to fully save a patient, however, each team had to correctly answer a math question when a bottle was placed in the hospital. Points were also deducted if the robots collided with a tree or the fire wizard. Each round was meant to have two distinct sections: a two-minute autonomous portion in which the robots ran only on prewritten code and not human controls, and a five-minute manual portion in which competitors used remotes to control their robots. However, only one autonomous run occured in the competition as most teams, including junior Delia Arias’, opted not to take part in that segment.

“Our team actually did have an autonomous code made by one of the girls, but last minute she decided it would be best to not use it since it could have caused us to hit obstacles and lose points,” Arias said. “After seeing the Mark Keppel team really hurt themselves by getting stuck from the autonomous code, we were glad that our team member made that call.”

Despite the lack of autonomous competition, many teams, including junior Huy Nguyen’s, invested time to perfect their robot’s design.
“We first followed the original build instructions for the robot; then we had to follow the competition rule and remove a the claw and design our own mechanism to gather water bottles,” Nguyen said. “Unlike the other robots, we put four motors instead of two, which made it go fast but it also meant double the work for coding. We used sample programs given by the coding program we used, RobotC, and we tweaked it [until] it worked with our robot.”

In the overall competition, team Technobiotics from Mark Keppel placed first, team Andy MIA from San Gabriel, consisting of juniors Kevin Huang, Andy Ly, Huy Nguyen and sophomore Andrew Liu, placed second, and team Carl’s Jr from San Gabriel, consisting of junior Adolfo Martinez and freshmen Carlos Campa and Freddy Perez, placed third. Carl’s Jr was assisted by juniors Delia Arias, Jessica Razo, Xareny Rodriguez, and freshman Alina Soliz.

AUSD plans to continue hosting and expanding its annual Robotics Challenge as it enters its third year next school year.

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