Manually controlling a robot that can traverse monkey bars and shoot a basketball in a hoop – this is just another day in the life of the Talon 540 robotics team at Godwin High School.
The Godwin Robotics team is run by Career and Technology teacher Henry Hurlburt, who aids the group during the planning, building, and competing process. Under him are a vast array of specialties that make up the team.
“Our team, being so large, has a hierarchy to which we assign roles and use to communicate/vote effectively. Out of our eight subgroups (CAD (Computer-Aided Design), Mechanical, Electrical, Programming, Strategy, PR, Outreach, Financial), we are split into two parts: Tech and Biz-Ops,” said mechanical lead and senior Ojas Joshi.
Tryouts for the team, which begin in October, include weeks worth of training, where around 130 members learn the ropes of the eight subgroups and put their knowledge to the test. After about a month and a half, the first cuts are made. Leading into January, final cuts are made where the team caps out around 60 to 70 members.
“We train and test our rookies less on their ability to memorize raw information over that time and more on hypothetical scenarios and practical applications. For example, I would not ask a rookie for their final test: ‘What’s the exact hole diameter required to fit a ½ lipped hex bearing?’” said Joshi.
Following tryouts is the build season for the team.
“The theme for the [competition] comes out during kickoff. This year it was Jan. eighth and ninth – and after that, we start to design the bot. After the team comes up with a final design, we start to CAD the robot on the computer and then prototype. Once we test proto, we move onto the competition bot,” said project manager and senior Shraddha Anup.
A normal build season lasts around six weeks before competitions begin, with meetings every Wednesday from four pm to nine pm, and ten-hour Saturday sessions riddled throughout.
Once the build season is over, the competition season is launched with full force.
“Robotics competitions are something else, aside from the constant noise. For me, I would say that it is thrilling, especially since I am part of the drive team that operates the robot in-game. Being able to see teams from across the state compete with and against you in a 3v3 with such complex challenges is just exhilarating,” said Joshi.
During each competition season, teams were asked to create robots that can do a myriad of tasks.
“This year we have to intake and shoot a ball, “climb,” which is basically hanging on a bar, and traversing the bars (think monkey bars). In the past, we’ve had to scale ramps and shoot high/low,” said Anup.
Talon 540’s first competition was March fifth. These games take place every other Saturday through March and sometimes April, depending on how well the team competes.
“Our competitions range from districts to district champs (which is basically states) to finally what we call Worlds, AKA international,” said Joshi.
Putting it simply, this six-month-long robotics season is nothing short of “crazy” with the time, dedication, and environment evident in the program.
Along with the creation of the robot is the making of Talon 540’s student-run newspaper: the Talon Tabloid.
“The Talon Tabloid is a book of sorts that our Awards & Outreach team, in cohesion with other subgroups, puts out to spread awareness of STEM and share fun activities for students. We share information about different aspects of the team (ex. What is a resistor? How does physics work on the team?) and then career highlights, photography challenges, and way more. It was created over quarantine for students at home and now it’s blossomed into something amazing – we’ve been featured on the HCPS Instagram!” said Anup.
Current Talon 540 members highly suggest trying out for the program next year.
“Just give it your best shot! We try our hardest to find both your passions and interests and match you to the subgroup you like the most! You’re never going to know if you’re going to get in until you try, so why not give it a shot? The worst that can happen is you learn cool stuff and try again next year!” said Joshi.
“I would say to not be afraid. I know most people think about just hands-on mechanical stuff and coding when they think of robotics, and maybe even a ‘nerd sport,’ but there’s something for everyone. Robotics gave me some of my best friends and also taught me the importance of a team – we have members from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of interests find a place on the team. Our mentor, Mr. Hurlbert , calls it the ‘hardest fun you’ll ever have’ – it can be insane at times but everyone walks out with a smile on their face!” said Anup.