by Angie Asam-Staff Writer

The Onaway High School Onabots traveled to Traverse City over the weekend for their first district event and did very well. The newly formed FIRST robotics team was the highest qualifying rookie team of the tournament and won the Rookie Inspiration Award which champions success in a rookie team through both the advancement of respect and the appreciation for engineering as a part of the team’s school and community.

THE ONAWAY Onabots did very well at their first competition over the weekend. Above Kamryn Main, Elaina Madison, Wyatt Libby and Ryan Fitzpatrick pose with Malevolence, the groups robot. (Photos courtesy of L. Scott Swanson)

Next up for the Onabots is a trip to Escanaba for another competition March 26-28 and they are only allowed six hours of practice time with their robot, Malevolence.

FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international high school robotics competition that gives students real-world engineering expeience. This year’s competition is Recylce Rush, a recycling-themed game played by two Alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.

The Onabots got started early this year. On Jan. 3 they traveled along with technology director Barry Fitzpatrick, teacher Scott Steensma and teacher Lewis Robinson, to Boyne City High School for the annual FIRST robotics kickoff.

“We went to kickoff and they told us what they would be doing and they told us we had six weeks. We had to design, build everything with our robot within six weeks,” said team captain Thomas Anglin, a junior at Onaway High School.

“Our first two weeks we were kind of like ‘Ok, what do we do?’ The following Saturday we went to a chassis build over in Petoskey. They basically helped us with our kit of parts and showed us how to put it together. We did all the wiring. After that weekend we had a square thing that zipped around and it was our job to build what we have right now,” said senior team captain Brianna Fitzpatrick.

Brianna Fitzpatrick said at first the team didn’t believe they would be able to build a robot that would pick up totes, they thought they would have something to just transport the totes. Thus came Malevolence, modeled after a forklift. To get points at competition the group must use the robot to stack totes. The more totes they stack the more points they get.

“In the past the competitions have been teams in direct contact. This time we are separated by a barrier and in an alliance, no direct contact,” said Brianna Fitzpatrick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick drives the robot while Wyatt Libby controls the lift system.

“When we first got there we were a little bit overwhelmed. But it was really cool just to watch other teams compete and talking to other teams to see their strategies and gather ideas. It was nice to get their take on how things work for them,” said Brianna Fitzpatrick.

FOLLOWING THE six-week build period the Onabots could take Malevolence out of the bag he is stored in for six hours of practice leading up to the competition in Traverse City. They now have six hours of practice time before traveling to Escanaba as well.

Repairs must be done within the six hours of unbagged time as well. With about 14 students that have been involved since the beginning.

“Our team works really well together. If we ever had an issue we were professional toward each other and were supportive of one another. Scoring any points was good for us because we had never done anything like this before,” said Brianna Fitzpatrick.

Each round of competition lasts a little over two minutes with the first 15 seconds being preprogrammed by the drivers using codes.

The Onabots scored 88 points as a team in the first round of their competition, paired with another team. “By the end of the competition we got a lot more efficient,” said Brianna Fitzpatrick.

“We got the inspirational award. Basically we had our whole town sponsoring us. We have made this a community endeavor,” said Anglin.

WITH THE program in place this year the Onabots are hoping not only to stay involved with FIRST robotics themselves but are looking to help neighboring schools get started next year. The Onabots could serve as mentors to help Rogers City or another neighboring school get started with FIRST robotics.

FIRST robotics was developed by Dean Kamen in 1989 to encourage young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST further motivates youth to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.