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Friday, March 11, 2022

‘This is what we do: we build robots’

Jacob Hoyt, left and Aiden Cohen with their team's robot.

     The robots do not fight. Get that straight. No buzzsaws, no sledgehammers, no flame throwers.
     To grasp what these robots actually do, or try to do, you should watch the eight-minute animated video by sponsor Raytheon Technologies. It takes focus just to understand what teams are required to do; now imagine having to conceive and fund and build and program and operate a robot that can perform those tasks in a competitive setting.
     This year’s competition is called “Freight Frenzy.” Having been to an Amazon procurement center, I couldn’t help but feel that, when no humans work at those places in 10 years, these little robots — each must fit within an 18-by-18-inch cube — will be part of the reason.
     Last season, when the FIRST Tech Challenge was virtual due to COVID, the robots fired small rings at a target. This year? Well, let Jacob Hoyt, captain of outreach for Highland Park’s 18529 Rust in Piece team, explain:
     “This year’s objective basically boils down to picking up balls and blocks and ducks.”
     Little rubber ducks, not big live ones. For the first 30 seconds of each match, the robots must work autonomously — that is, without influence from their operators. Then a two-minute guided scramble to grab the aforementioned balls, boxes and ducks, then place them on “hives,” three-tiered towers that tip over if not balanced correctly.
     Meanwhile, three other robots — two operated by opponents, one by an “alliance” team — try to do the same thing on the same field. Your robot can lose points if it gets in their way.
     Rust in Piece is one of 36 teams in FIRST Tech Challenge’s Illinois Championship Tournament at Elgin Community College on Saturday.

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  1. I'm going to take a guess, but I'll bet those four toy robots from the 30s are worth at least $500 each, if they have the original box.


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