McBain robotics finishes 12th out of 40 in competition

April 25, 2019

By John Raffel

MCBAIN — The robotics season has ended for McBain and it was called “one of our most nerve-racking yet,” in a statement from Sandy Freeland and Jack Racignol.

Freeland is a McBain Elementary third grade teacher and co-lead mentor for Rambler Robotics while Racignol is pit crew and marketing lead for engineering.

The Ramblers Robotics Team and their bot Little Oppy.

“Once again, our engineering division was able to provide us with yet another excellent robot,” they said in the statement. “In addition, they finished with time to spare. This time was greatly appreciated and put to use with drive team practices and minor modifications as the build season came to an end. This year our robot, named ‘Little Oppy’ in commemoration of the opportunity rover that went offline previously this year, was designed to be capable of overcoming all the obstacles this competition threw at us.

“Little Oppy has a pivoting ball intake/outtake mechanism placed on the front capable of launching balls into the required cargo hold and much further. The robot also has an extendable pneumatic panel clasp off the back that performs the task of carrying and precisely placing hatch panels. Possibly the most exciting feature Little Oppy has is its climbing mechanism. Hidden on the underside of the robot’s chassis is a pronged rotating lever run by a chain connected to a motor. This has enough strength to bend the entire back of the chassis frame and connecting steel bar, let alone thrust the entire 110-pound robot up into the air and onto a six-inch ledge.”

Little Oppy works hard to finish the competition in time.

McBain started out competing at Grand Valley State University.

“After our first match we quickly realized that our ability to climb would be our largest asset; however, with the amount of power the climber lever had, we were finding it difficult to use without bending other parts of the robot,” Freeland and Racignol said. “We turned to a largely defensive strategy that worked beautifully thanks to our high traction wheels, gaining us recognition from the first-ranked team. At the end of the qualifying matches we were unfortunately not picked to advance in an alliance despite our high ranking of 18 out of 39. We returned to the workshop with many new ideas and suggestions to improve upon Little Oppy’s design. 

“Our next competition was at Traverse City High School, our district home event location. We arrived with high hopes and a modified climber mechanism. Overall, we did very well in the competition gaining a ranking of 12 out of 40. Our only issue was the mix up of new robot batteries with old ones, which do not perform as well. This was fixed very quickly. When alliance selection came around we had high expectations of being chosen easily, yet we unexpectedly became the eighth-seed captain ourselves. Due to some scouting deficiencies and our utter surprise, we had difficulty choosing our teammates, yet we pulled through.”

McBain found itself competing first against the top-seeded team, a very strong opponent.

“Even though our alliance was able to stay neck and neck with our opponents for the majority of the match we were unable to prevail,” Freeland-Racignol said. “ Although this marked the loss of our qualification to states and the end of our season, we did not let it hold us back and are now busily preparing for next year. Rambler Robotics greatly appreciates the public’s support and would especially like to thank this year’s sponsors.” 

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