Liberty robotics team gears up for competition

Christina Tuttle, Staff Writer

Arobot zooms down the field, swerving past obstacles and avoiding other robots. It shoots a ball into a goal and scores. The team cheers from the sideline.
No, this isn’t a futuristic game of soccer. It’s one of the Iron Patriot’s robotics competitions.
Each January, the Liberty robotics club is issued a challenge by an organization called FIRST Robotics. They have six weeks to build a robot to accomplish the task. Throughout those six weeks, some club members spend close to 300 hours constructing the robot and writing code.
“One day it’s just a pile of parts sitting on the table and then you come back the next day and suddenly you have this awesome industrial-looking machine that’s sitting on the table,” club president Ian Weiss said. “It’s such a wonder that we actually made every single piece of that robot.”
This year, the team was challenged to build a robot that can shoot a ten-inch diameter foam ball into a goal that is seven feet wide. Once completed these robots weigh around 100 pounds and can be six feet tall.
Robotics competitions consist of two parts: First there is an autonomous section, where the robot performs without anyone controlling it. The robot must drive through defenses and score a goal, guided only by the code that students prepare before the competition. Next, there is a section called “teleop”, when someone controls the robot. Their objective is to drive the robot around the field, collecting foam balls to shoot at the goal. They also try to stop the other team from scoring points by hitting them.
“You get to hang out with your friends while doing something creative and something innovative. And that ability to work on a project while having fun is awesome,” senior Sean Szymanski said.
At a competition on March 4, the Iron Patriots came in third place and received an Excellence in Engineering Award. The team has goals to be successful in their later competitions.
“We really want to get to Portland for our district meet. If we could get there, that would be awesome. And, depending on how well we do, we could even get to nationals, which is in St. Louis this year,” Szymanski said. “I think that we have the opportunity to do it if we really just buckle down.”
Along with providing a chance to demonstrate their robots’ capabilities, competitions also serve as an opportunity for club members to see how they can improve.
“We learned some weaknesses of the robot at the competition. Right now, we’re working on fixing and updating the robot,” senior Keelan Masterson said.
The Iron Patriots also host outreach programs at local elementary schools in the Issaquah School District, visiting science fairs and displaying their robots. The club hopes to inspire younger children to pursue hobbies involving STEM.