Robotics team overcomes obstacles, takes home award


Senior Dalton Phillips works alongside junior Cami Kudrna on the Army Ants Team’s robot named “Ralph”. The Army Ants competed this week at the St. Louis Regional held at Chaifetz Arena in which fifty-two teams representing seven different states showcased varying robots and strategies in hopes of becoming the regional winners to move on to World Championships. Photo by Yousuf El-Jayyousi

Skyler Froese

Senior Dalton Phillips and junior Cami Kudrna adjust their team’s robot at their yearly competition in St. Louis, MO. 
The Army Ants, the Columbia Public Schools robotics team, went marching to St. Louis from March 8 to 11. At the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics competition, months of hard work culminated in a few technical difficulties for the team. After weeks of construction and coding, team captain and senior Morgan Kruse recounted the difficulties that presented at the competition.
“So the first day of competition we thought the issue was in the autonomous, or when the robot runs on its own without drivers. We thought this because after we removed the autonomous, the code worked fine,” Kruse said. “But then we began to realize that there are other issues so we started to get the volunteers at the FIRST robotics competition to come and help us and see what was wrong without code. It took four officials to find out that the roborio was messed up, and wouldn’t allow our code to deploy properly.”
While these are not the fighting robots of television, this quirk in the machine’s performance hindered a much more peaceful activity that the robots were designed to accomplish.
“The goal was to score as many balls in the goal as possible, or get as many gears on the peg as possible and at the end of each match the goal was to climb the rope,” sophomore Joe Thomas said.
After working with with several computer specialist volunteers, the Army Ants were finally able to compete, after being stuck fixing their robot for the past several days.
“We made it to our last match and everything worked. Afterwards we got reweighed,” Kruse said. “Then we went to alliance picking and did not get chosen. We stayed and watch the semifinals, the finals and then the last match.”
Even though the team did not win, as they have in previous years, or even make it into the top eight alliances, the Army Ants did not leave empty-handed.

“In all honesty I think it went so much better. It was nice to not have the mechanical team having to change linear actuators after every match. It was a lot more fun and there were so many more cool designs with the robots.””

“We got the Judges Award because of our detailed strategy binder, precise calculations  detailed design process layout,” Kruse said. “This award goes to a team that doesn’t fit into one award box and isn’t always given out.”
This prize rewards the team for the hardwork they put in before competition, as they attempted to design an immaculate robot, as well as scouting systems, code, pit layout and also raising money for the robot by hosting camps.
“First we went over what part of the game we want to focus on. Then we came up with ideas on how our robot would do those things,” Thomas said. “Then some people made a cad model of the robot, and after we all liked the model we built the robot. I worked on the chassis.”
The team worked multiple times a week on the robot, for sometimes very long hours. Thus, it is no surprise the team members enjoy engineering enough to relish their time competing, even though they did not come out on top.
“In all honesty I think it went so much better. It was nice to not have the mechanical team having to change linear actuators after every match,” Kruse said. “It was a lot more fun and there were so many more cool designs with the robots.”
What do you think of the Army Ants performance? Leave a comment below.