By Taylor Boyd
The PC Rocket Robotics placed fifth among the 18 teams competing at the FIRST Chesapeake Fairlawn 2 event in Fairlawn on Jan. 22.
Team mentor John Pendleton said the team did well during the competition, which returned to pre-COVID-19 standards with four teams competing simultaneously instead of last year’s restrictions of two teams per match.
During the matches, competing teams are given a random alliance partner to play with against the other paired teams.
“Their points and our points count together against the other two. So, they finished four wins and one loss in the five matches we played,” he said.
The points of the alliances are totaled for the five matches to determine the rankings. “So, that’s how they ended up finishing fifth place out of the 18 teams there,” he said.
The team also placed ninth out of 18 teams at the FIRST Chesapeake Fairlawn 1 event on Jan. 8, and finished the day with two wins and three losses.
The team also won first place in the Design Award for the Fairlawn 1 competition.
“We haven’t got the trophy yet, but that the first trophy we’ve won in the four years we’ve been doing this,” he said.
Pendleton said the team won first place due to its robot’s unique design.
“Your robot,” or a piece of it, “handles the competition in a way that is unique to the other robots there. I suspect on our robot that unique was all of the 3D printed parts and the way that our arm did,” Pendleton said, and explained it was designed “so it could turn and grab from anywhere.”
He added that “most of the robots there, their arms were stationary so they could only pick up in front.”
The team from Patrick also won second place in the Think Award of competition. This award is given to the team that the judges feel best reflects the journey of the engineering design process.
The team did not qualify for the state championship this year, but placed 10th out of 36 teams at last year’s state championship.
Because the competition changes every year, the team had to create a new robot to enter to meet the challenge theme. “This one was called ‘Freight Frenzy,’ and it’s to deliver cargo around the world. It’s kind of like a simulation of cargo driving,” Pendleton said.
The game consists of two parts: autonomous mode and a driver-controlled period. During autonomous mode, the robot would execute functions based on the team’s programming. The other part involved the team using programmed controls on X-BOX or PlayStation controllers to drive the robot to complete the tasks.
Pendleton said that while the team started working on the robot’s design in September, building didn’t begin until November. “Once they got going, it took then a good six-weeks to two months to really get it into that good space,” he said.
The group was started in June 2018 by John Pendleton and his wife, Angie. Pendleton said they started the program to give students opportunities to work on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) projects. Team members have quickly progressed from learning about the robot to competing against an estimated 30 other teams in Virginia.
The team is also divided into three sub-units that specialize in different parts of creating the robot to allow members to focus on a primary interest while contributing to the whole team effort.
“We have a team that focuses on the build part of the robot, building it, the mechanical and electrical part of it. Then we have a team that focuses on programming, because we have to program the robot to do what it needs to do. Then, we have another team that works on the computerized design part of it,” Pendleton said.
To further provide STEM opportunities to Patrick County’s youth, the Pendletons also fully funded FIRST Lego League teams for each of the county’s elementary schools. “Unfortunately, due to COVID resource issues, only Stuart Elementary and Meadows of Dan Elementary were able to start teams during the season. We hope that in 2022, we will be able to get the First Lego League in all the Patrick County elementary schools,” he said.
The Robo Cougars, (the Stuart team), and the Hillbilly Cardinals, (the Meadows of Dan team), competed their robots at Roanoke College in November. “Both teams did extremely well for first year teams that had to learn the game, how to build, and how to program the robot to run the game task,” Pendleton said.
For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page at Facebook/PCRocketRobotics. Donations to PC Rocket Robotics, Inc. may be sent to P.O. Box 165 Stuart, VA 24171.