The clinking of tools, laughter and and the sounds of robots can be heard from the industrial tech room at Smith-Cotton High School late each night after most students have headed home for the evening. Team SCREAM, the robotics team at SCHS, has been working tirelessly five days a week since Jan. 5 on their prototype and competition robots.
The team spends about five hours Monday through Thursday and sometimes up to 12 hours on Saturdays making sure their robot is ready for the first competition March 7-8. All competing teams are given six weeks to complete their robot, and the last day for working is Tuesday. So far the team is in better shape than where they were this time last year — their rookie year.
“They’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time working,” said teacher and Team SCREAM sponsor Michael Wright. “We lost some time because of the snow, but luckily we had good students working so we were ahead of schedule when we came in this week.
“I feel really confident (about our robot). We’re all excited. Last year was our rookie year and we learned a lot through the season. Now we’re able to build a more competitive robot the first time around. I told the students it’s easy to build your first robot and then build a better second robot. It’s more challenging to do it right the first time around. We hope we did that this year.”
Not only has the team improved its skills from its rookie year, the team also more than doubled in size, growing from 20 members last year to 48 this year, and going from one female teammate to 13. Wright and several team members attributed that growth to a successful 2012-13 season, veteran team members getting other students excited and interested in robotics, and the wide variety of engineering classes now offered at SCHS.
Each year teams are given specifications for their robots, and Team SCREAM created their prototype robot within the first few weeks of their six-week build period. Now they’re onto their competition robot, which was expected to be finished this weekend.
“We’re on track,” said junior Vladik Sheremeta. “We finished the prototype the second week, and now we’re making it better. We’re redesigning the wench, but we’re still on schedule and we’ll get it done.”
This year’s robots will again be required to throw a ball into a goal, but something different is that the teams will have to work together. Bonus points are given for assissting and passing, so Team SCREAM will be collaborating with the teams they’re competing against.
“The robots have to throw a big exercise ball and play sort of a combination between a football and soccer game,” Wright said. “Your robot passes back and forth on an alliance team, and they also throw the ball into goals 10 feet in the air. We made our robot to be fast, agile and it drives quickly. It can pick up balls fast and it’s a powerful, accurate shooter.”
To help prepare for the upcoming competitions, Smith-Cotton is hosting a scrimmage Saturday at Horace Mann Elementary for eight area teams. Wright said the scrimmage allows the teams to learn to work together, and acts as an open house to showcase Team SCREAM’s work.
Smith-Cotton is able to host the scrimmage because of their full-size practice field, which is currently located in a large unused room in the high school basement. The team built the field during the first few weeks of the season, and since the team hosts a robotics competition during the Missouri State Fair Wright said it just made sense to have their own instead of borrowing one from the teams in Lee’s Summit.
“We’re one of two teams in the state to have a practice field, Lee’s Summit is the other one,” Wright said. “We’re very lucky, and we have phenomenal support from the school and the community. Having the field steps up our game and gives us the ability to gauge our capabilities. With a full-size field we’re able to spread out more.”
Because of the long hours spent together at school, parents take turns providing dinner for the students, and all team members present at practice take a short break to eat dinner together in one of the FACS classrooms. Each night a different member is selected by Wright to share their “4522,” in honor of the name of their competition robot. Team Captain Chase Bussey was selected during Tuesday’s dinner, and he had to share four places he wants to visit, five hobbies, two interesting facts about himself, and two dream jobs.
Bussey is one of just eight veterans who returned to Team SCREAM after a highly successful rookie year. He is the lead programmer for the robot, which he said is helping to improve his skills for a future in computer science. He’s also learned more than just his own trade, as all the students try to help in various ways with the robot.
“It’s been interesting. I don’t know all the aspects of how the robot works, but I’ve learned a lot more and I’ve become more hands-on with the robot. Like now I know what a crescent wrench is,” Bussey joked. “It’s cool to see how much people know about their own areas. We all work together really well.”
All the team members have assigned tasks, but they help in multiple ways. New this year is the marketing team, which runs the team blog, social media, takes photos, and is applying for an award for the team.
“It’s not just about the robot,” Austin Wood said. “The majority of it is about engineering and design, but there’s other areas you can work on. We’re set up like a business, so we have a website and social media. We do a lot more than just build a robot.”
Those involved with the team all agreed that Team SCREAM has helped prepare them for futures in computer science, marketing, and engineering. Sheremeta, who said he hopes to be an aerospacial engineer working in aviation, said joining the team allowed him to pursue a passion.
“I love engineering and I wanted to work with people who share that same passion,” he said. “And we can work on something that we can show our capabilities.
“Being on the team has given me the skills to work with others and explain my ideas better. It prepares me for college and a career, and all the new things I’m learning about physics and motion are really helping me.”
To keep up with Team SCREAM, visit the team blog at teamscream4522.wordpress.com.