By Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
DURAND TEAM NO. 5282 – The Durand Robotics team is competing in Michigan’s FIRST Robotics competitions for the third year. FIRST is a worldwide organization in which students build STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), teamwork, and public speaking skills. This year’s team consists of Brittany Maddrell (safety captain), Sada Reed, Mikey Hinojosa, Jessica Fureigh, Jordan Taylor (building captain), Alex Rouse (programming captain), Eli Frary (pit design co-captain), Ryan Maiden, Ian Waggoner (pit design co-captain), Justin Hubbard, Miller McGee, Paige Rathbun, Silver Graham, William Hubbard, Brandon Putnam, Ashley Frizzelle (scout and public relations captain), Andrew Stiles, Levi Allen, Simon Salaev, August Tomasek, And Dana Jewell. (Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
The Durand Robotics team began its competitive season this weekend by traveling to Waterford Mott High School for a regional competition. The team had to navigate an obstacle course that required the robot to traverse over, around and through obstacles in a head-to-head matchup with an opposing school.
The team directed the robot over obstacles to grab large foam balls, which the robot attempted to throw through openings on a castle. The team was scored by how many times it hit the open targets with the balls, and robots were only allowed so many trips through the obstacle course.
The 21-member team was aided in building the robot by mentors, with Durand teachers Justin and Rebecca Shankster leading the group, and Lee Reed, Katie Shankster, Angie Jewel, Brian Taylor, Paul Mayers and Thomas Spear also working as mentors. The robot was built in Durand High School, with the help of many local businesses and organizations, including main sponsors Graff Chevrolet of Durand, Durr Systems, Inc. of Plymouth, Capital Area Science and Mathematics, and the Durand Area Schools. Additional sponsors include Shaw’s Pharmacy, Riverside Market, Nelson Tile and Marble, and Ace Hardware.
While some teams have elected to use automated programs to move their robot, Durand chose a manual design. With only six weeks to prepare their robot for competition, the team instead decided to focus their energy on perfecting the conveyor system used to pick up the balls, the wheels needed to maneuver over obstacles, and the arm that picks the robot up off the ground. The team utilized pneumonic technology, such as inflated wheels, to give the robot the versatility it requires.
In addition to the hands-on learning and practical application skills robotics has taught the students, the students also value the public speaking opportunities and the team atmosphere it has provided. The team has presented its project to a number of assembled groups and had to approach business owners to ask for donations, which forced the students to step outside their comfort zone. The team, led by safety captain Brit Maddrell, also created a safety action plan that included each team member becoming CPR certified.
Justin Shankster has been impressed with this year’s team and is confident with the work his team has done. “We learned a lot this year,” Shankster said. “It is an extraordinary amount of work over six weeks, and we set some pretty lofty goals. We have a lot of team members back from last year and everyone wants to do even better this year. This has been a great group to work with and I am really proud of them.”
The team will also compete in Mason, March 25 and 26, with a trip to the state competition in Grand Rapids planned for April 13 through 16, if the team qualifies.