For several months the Burlington High Robotics Team has been hard at work after school, on weekends, and in their spare time perfecting their Devilbot for this past weekend’s FIRST Robotics Regional Tournament. The team did not disappoint; qualifying for the final elimination round competition after being selected by the Manchester club, “Robots by the C” to join their three-team alliance in the elimination rounds.
“During our first competition in Nashua we reached the quarterfinals, which was nice and we hoped here at Northeastern we could go even farther,” said team president Marko Lazarevic.
The Devilbotz approach to this year’s challenge served them well all year long. With the “coop-ertition” offering scoring opportunities for goal scoring, defense, and cooperation between teams through passing and sharing, the Devilbotz focused on the later scoring from the get-go. “We wanted our robot to be maneuverable, fast, agile, able to get out of any rough situations, focusing only on the low goals,” said Lazarevic (the competition has goals both low to the ground and roughly six feet off the ground for balls to be both shuttled into or flung through from a distance.) The fork-lift style way in which the Devilbotz robot collected and maneuvered the ball also lent itself extremely well to cooperative play, making seemingly effortless passes that increased the value of goals scored.
Compounding to the challenge were the busy schedules of the team’s participants. With many members also holding roles in the Grease performance back home in Burlington, there was limited time to make the necessary adjustments. Robotics club coach, Arshad Khan and volunteer, Gerry Pothier both shared admiration for the students resolve to get the robot back on its feet. “They were here up to the minute they could be before leaving for the show, and came back early the next day to get the robot running smoothly again” said Pothier, a parent volunteer who has seen many of his children come up through the early years of the robotics program. “Really impressive. It was great to see them problem solving on the fly and refusing to give up.”
Lazarevic took a glass half-full approach to the challenge as well. “Without the arm, we had to help our teammates in other ways. It was actually really good for us to be able to show off our defensive skills in the afternoon after we had shown what we could do on offense in the morning. We showed that we could adapt to any situation that was thrown at us and wasn’t completely debilitating to us even though we dropped in rank.”
With the robot back to full strength on Saturday the team allayed any fears fellow competitors had about choosing them for their elimination round alliance. Burlington joined Manchester and “Ozram” from Weare, New Hampshire during the draft stage between the qualification and elimination rounds.
The teams success has only increased year over year as it has grown in size and talents. Lazarevic shared the diversity of roles team members play over the course of a year. “We have a mechanical team who help build a robot, an electrical team that wires it all together, the programming team that makes sure everything works and then a logistics team that handled the business and marketing part of the program.” Some members are more involved than others as many teammates participate in sports and other programs, but during the competitions “all are invited and its a good morale boost just to know that we have a lot of people cheering us on.” Lazarevic went on to add how important the parent mentors, sharing how “every mentor we have is important and makes a difference in their own way and that we really love our mentors.”
The afternoon got off to a tough start, with another malfunction putting their newly formed alliance at a disadvantage and unable to catch up to their competition. With the robotics competition season coming to a close many team members now shift gears and focus their attention toward younger robot enthusiasts like the LEGO Robotics Club at Francis Wyman, sharing their expertise and mentoring abilities to help the next generation of club members hone their skills from an early age and prepare them for whatever challenge the FIRST competition throws at them.