Robot Design Shoots Hoops

Samuel Ganten, Staff writer

Less than half the height of an average human, the Robotics club’s robot would seem to be ill suited for sports participation. Never the less, the mechanical contraption can shoot hoops.

“It’s the most advanced robot we’ve ever developed,” said the club’s director of outreach, William McKinney. “We’ve been working on it since the beginning of school.”

This year, the Boss Bot’s, as they are known at competitions, designed their machine to launch balls into a hoop and push a large yoga ball up a ramp.

Using PID, a programming language for robots, the robot can function either under the control of a human operator, or act autonomously, which means without human intervention. The robot manages to launch the balls by using a plastic strip, much like how a catapult uses tension.

“It’s able to launch the ball five feet high and two feet forward,”said team co-captain Ray Altenberg. “The goal is to have it run for one and a half minutes under human control, and run 30 seconds autonomously.” Teams are required to run an autonomous program for a certain time interval during their matches.

The competition is slated to be held on the November 19. As the competition approaches, the team continues to make adjustments and add other functions. As the robot plays it needs to gather up the balls. This feature is still in development.

From October to March, the club hopes to compete in the regional and state competitions. Last year, the team won the Folsom award and the team believes that further success is likely in the coming months.

“We’re going to compete against many other Robotics teams in California,” said Altenberg. “Usually we perform well, since we’ve been around since 2005. We’re the oldest team and have a lot of experience.”

The Robotics club is also developing concepts for a repurposed shipping container for growing crops at much higher yields than with conventional agriculture. Members submitted their designs for this project, and a final design has been selected by the leadership.

“This is a multi-year project,” said Altenberg. “The idea is to stack plants on top of each other and use robotic helpers to care for the plants. We are stuck dealing with the bureaucracy waiting for approval, so it likely won’t start this year.”