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Wave Robotics floods world competition

By Index staff
posted May 26, 2011

In a high school atmosphere that adores athletic accomplishments, 50 high schoolers from the Oshkosh area dared to take their academic interests to new heights, competing in this year’s FIRST Robotics competition. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) aims at exposing students to engineering and technological skills, all while creating a competitive atmosphere that inspires creativity and cooperation. Over 250,000 students, ages 6 to 18, compete across America each year in the various robotic competitions held by FIRST.

“Wave Robotics team is a member of FIRST robotics, which is an organization dedicated to encouraging students to take interest in science and engineering careers,” said junior Megan Daniels. “FIRST teams are given six weeks to build a robot to compete in the game designed for that year, following strict size, weight, and budget constraints.”

Wave Robotics, the team from the Oshkosh community, embarked on a tense and harrowing journey through all brackets of the scientific Olympiad. The team began its run in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the first round of the Regional tournament. Competition involves the use of robots to complete various tasks, such as throwing inner tubes or hanging rings up onto bars.

“About 60 teams attend what are called Regionals and it’s a three on three alliance based game. So you don’t know who you’re alliances are until you get there,” said senior Nick Olson. “Basically, it’s randomly generated so what’s kind of cool is that you may be playing with one team in the next round, and then you might be playing against them in the round after that.”

Wave was able to flow past Regionals with only minor hitches, attributing many of their victories to a strong team bond and cooperation.

“Wave Robotics with our other alliance partners won the Regional, also picking up the Creativity award along the way,” said Daniels. “We couldn’t wait for our next regional, the infamous Midwest Regional, the home regional of various legendary Hall of Fame and Legacy teams.”

The team was able to pass through the Milwaukee Regional, with only minor technical difficulties. A large part of the team’s success was its luck in allying itself with the team Wild Stang, a legacy team from Illinois. However, Wild Stang would soon remove themselves from their alliance at the next round of Regional competition in Chicago, Illinois.

“This was our first year going to this regional, and we did not know what to expect, going up against some of the greatest teams in FIRST, some having won multiple world titles, others having been around since FIRST was first formed over a decade ago,” said Daniels. “These teams, called ‘Legacy Teams’ were something we had never been up against before, with the exception of our finals alliance partners, Wild Stang.”

Tensions ran high at the competition as the team was able to place within the finals of the regional, putting themselves among the top six teams in the Midwest region. When Wave Robotics learned that they would need to defeat their old allies Wild Stang to keep in the runnings, pressures were heightened.

“All of these teams’ fans are emotionally staked in every match, their time, money, work, and patience having been dedicated to the piece of machinery humming on the field,” said Daniels. “Every win and loss is personal, making the stadium experience charged with energy, excitement, and emotion.”

The team was able to reach the World Competition, held in St. Louis, Missouri. There the team was ranked tenth and was able to advance to the finalist rounds. However, the true merit of the program was its ability to foster cooperation among the various robotic teams and student personalities.

“It isn’t just a bunch of kids sitting around a computer,” said Olson. “There’s a lot more that goes into it. There are a lot of people that don’t even know about robots when they join the team. Everyone has a place in our team.”

With the fantastic turnout for this year’s FIRST competition, the future looks bright for the application of scientific skills in the Oshkosh area.

“They say you can tell about how a team will do in the future by how they do their third year,” said Daniels. “If our third year is any indication, Wave is a legacy team here to stay.”

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Wave Robotics team members work feverishly to put the finishing touches on their robot before competing at the Midwest Regionals.

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