The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Upper School team Powers Up at robotics competition

For the 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition season, the Taipei American School robotics team, “Raid Zero,” attended regional competitions in Utica, New York (Feb. 28-March 6) and Sydney, Australia (March 9-14). They also recently completed their final regional for the season in Honolulu, Hawaii (March 21-24).
At the Central New York Regional in Utica, the team ranked second after the qualification rounds but lost at the semifinals. On March 13, “Raid Zero” won the Southern Cross Regional, qualifying them to compete at the FIRST Championships in Detroit. Yesterday, at the Hawaii Regional on March 24, “Raid Zero” became regional champion for the second time..
FIRST stands for “For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The nonprofit organization
was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, a man more commonly known for developing the Segway. According to the organization’s website, Kamen’s vision and mission for the organization focuses on developing a STEM engagement program. Co-mentor of the TAS “Raid Zero” team, Dr. Allan Bayntun, says that FIRST intends to create a platform for students interested in science and technology that cultivates the same and excitement as one would see in school athletics.
FIRST has four different programs and leagues: FIRST Lego League Jr., FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition. The last program, most commonly known in TAS as FRC, is the largest and most well-known program. Under a themed objective and limited resources, teams of students design large robots of around 100 pounds in a six-week challenge that changes every year.
This year’s theme, called “FIRST POWER UP,” takes inspiration from old-school video games. Essentially, teams
are required to design robots that can lift boxes, known as Power Cubes, around the sizes of milk crates to different locations of the match arena. Each 175-second match takes place in an enclosed field around the size of a standard Upper School classroom. There are a few ways a team can win points, but a team earns the most
points by lifting the Power Cubes onto its side of the seesaw: A point is earned each second the seesaw
is tipped in the team’s favor.

Teams can earn a point for each second that the yellow Power Cubes, placed by their robots onto the seesaw robot, tip towards them. {Screenshot courtesy of FIRST Robotics)

Over the course of the six weeks leading up to the New York Regional, “Raid Zero” has been working through a cycle of brainstorming, prototyping, designing, and fabricating, with the fabricating step, the physical building of the robots, taking up the most time. On the team’s development of the robots, Dr. Bayntun says, “It’s never smooth.” FRC gives out these challenges each year and “prides itself on making students fail,” as the organization strongly believes in the idea of “learning success through failure.” To Dr. Bayntun, one of the biggest setbacks, besides the technical obstacles of making the robots, that the team members face is actually dealing with the fact that they are making something no one would use. Since the robots are made specifically to perform the tasks
required by the challenge, they do not perform functions outside of the competition criteria, and this fact could sometimes discourage some members.
On the team dynamic, Sharon Kuo (‘19) says, “FRC is like a big crazy family as we practically live in the lab for six weeks straight during build season, surviving on Texas Rangers, Red Bull, and memes.” Over Chinese New Year, “Raid Zero” members were in the lab almost every day well past midnight, “sometimes even going until 3:00 a.m. and then coming back the next day to do the same thing.”  Everyone becomes bonded by their determination in these long weeks: “The amount of commitment and  dedication everyone has to the team is unlike any other team I’ve seen,” says Sharon.
The multiple trips to regionals in the month of March serve to help “Raid Zero” test out its robots’ abilities against different schools, as the more it competes, the more experience the robots and the members gain.

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