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Lessons from TAF@WMS Robotics

 In #TAFEvents, #TAFSchools, TAF ACADEMY, TAF@Washington

This blog post was written in partnership with Sarah Nichols, TAF MakerSpace Specialist at Washington Middle School, and staff support for the school’s Robotics team.

This November, ten TAF@Washington 8th graders competed in their first robotics competition. At this day long event, the group competed against 14 other teams, ranging from 7th graders, to seniors in high school. The TAF@WMS team spent the morning getting their robot working and going through inspection. At these events, inspections are necessary to ensure that each robot follows the rules of the competition and can connect with the field over wifi.

The students worked diligently to fix problems with their robot’s drivetrain. Sarah Nichols, TAF MakerSpace Specialist and staff support for the Robotics team, called out these problem-solving skills, “Fatoumata in particular was a superstar! She is very quiet but is also very patient and understands the drivetrain the best out of the group. She worked with her teammates, Arthur (TAF’s Director of Technology), and some helpful members of the Garfield High School team to figure out the problem and fix it.” The Washington team worked through lunch in shifts and were still fixing the drivetrain when matches started after lunch. Due to these drivetrain issues, the team missed their first match, but once the problem was solved, they managed to score points in all 6 of their other matches that day!

With the drivetrain fixed, the team then struggled with their robot knocking over cones instead of pushing them into the scoring zones. Nichols called out another problem solver in the group, “D’Jaylah built a cardboard pusher attachment that made it possible for our robot to successfully push the cones for scoring.”

The five students who wanted to drive took turns operating the robot during matches. Desmond, who focused on programming, was the back-up driver in every match. As back up, Desmond made sure the drivers understood how to use the controller and start the robot at the beginning of the match. The other students took turns interviewing their competitors and taking notes on the successes and failures of each match. They noticed some good patterns in what kinds of robots worked well, inspiring great ideas for improving their robot for the next competition.

Ultimately, the TAF@Washington team ranked 10th out of 15 teams! Nichols was very proud of this accomplishment, “We were up against teams that have been competing for many years and have students who have been on the team for 3 or 4 years. Additionally, we are an all 8th grade team in a 7-12th grade competition! The students were very well-behaved at the competition and showed great sportsmanship. They are pretty happy with how they did, and excited to improve their robot and try again in a couple weeks!”

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