PTG is very excited to be sponsoring another robotics team! This time the team is competing in combat events. Team Xenos comes from Akron STEM High School. The team consists of six members, in grades 9 and 10. They give us some insight into combat robots and the journey they’ve had so far.
PTG: What made you decide to get involved in building robots?
Kris: I oftentimes like a challenge, and when it comes to hands-on problems, it’s no different. I find combat robotics to be a very exciting experience during the fights, and a very relaxing and collaborative one when we aren’t fighting. The fact that we get to destroy other robots also adds a lot to it.
Kyle: Quite a few factors went into my decision to get involved in building robots. First of all, competitions are a requirement in engineering class. I’ve always wondered how difficult completing a project of a similar complexity to the typical mechanical engineering project is. Last year’s experience gave a good gauge for me, but this year we’re being much more independent which will give me an even better idea. I also love hands-on projects, and a project of this caliber teaches me all kinds of things such as CAD, fundraising, time management, and leadership. I also have gotten the chance to use some upper level math such as Algebra and Geometry.
Camden: Back many years ago, before middle school, I watched a few episodes of Battlebots, and had a couple of Battlebots toys. In the eighth grade, I had seen an ad for something similar. This led to my research into the sport of robot combat, and I was hooked; I had to do this. So, that summer, I started drafting designs, scrapping, redoing, and repeating the process. I easily went through a notebook until I came up with a few concepts. I made a team, now called Team Xenos, and we went through with it. I love the opportunities for the collaboration with my friends, the hands on work, the CAD software, being able to apply math and sciences, and last, but not least, being able to rip opponents to shreds or making them catch fire (either makes for a nice show).
Nick: I have always been interested in computers, electronics, and taking electronics apart. I was able to expand that interest by joining this club and learning about how electronics can be used in others way besides in a computer. This idea encouraged me to join the club because I would learn about battlebots and how they function, while learning how the robot is controlled remotely.
Jackson: Building robots is always something I’ve found interesting but never thought I could actually do. I enjoy challenging myself so when I was asked to participate in Team Xenos, I jumped at the opportunity.
Mason: Although I’m not necessarily a hands-on kind of person, I’m very interested in constructing different sorts of automated devices, as I plan on pursuing a career as a biomedical engineer. Building robots is a good outlet to figure out how pieces of a machine work together, and how to manipulate them for my gain.
PTG: Last year, 2014, was your first competition. What mistakes or successes have you learned from since that first competition?
Team Xenos: The major success we had last year was simply getting the project complete. Compared to other teams around the state, the Akron league started 3 months later. Despite this, we managed to create a working lifter-style robot. We also learned a lot about time management. The area where this is most critical is the design stage. Although we’ll still be trying to cut this down even more next year, we tend to stay in the design stage for too much time. One of our coaches, Mike, told us a saying about “shooting the engineer.” This means making sure that design is done despite the lack of perfection and making sure production is able to start. Next year, we’d be able to refine what didn’t work as well as we hoped. A final thing we learned from our experience last year is independence. We had a lot of help from our sponsors last year, but this year we are largely on our own. We’ve raised 600 dollars ourselves – about half of the cost of the robot – and are receiving other pieces from a variety of sources. We appreciate your help in supporting us as well.
PTG: Tell us about the competitions you are competing in this year. Are they regional level only, or is there a chance to compete at a higher level?
Team Xenos: This year we are competing in two competitions. The first is a regional competition on April 25th, 2015. Assuming our robot isn’t destroyed after this first competition (thanks to Grade 5 Titanium it won’t be!), we’ll be moving on to the National Robotics League on May 16th, 2015.
PTG: Are you planning on getting involved in any other competitions in the future?
Team Xenos: We plan to be involved in as many competitions in the short-term future as possible, as long as they fit within our 15 pound weight class. As for the long term, we may try to build a variety of robot weights to have the ability to compete in more competitions. While there are only a few competitions in the Midwestern US that deal with 15 pound robots, there are many that deal with both smaller one pound robots and larger 60 pound robots.
PTG: PTG donated 6AL-4V, 0.125” sheet and 0.5” plate. Where will the titanium be used on your robot? Why choose titanium for this application over other metals? How did you determine that Grade 5 was the right fit for this application?
Team Xenos: The 0.125” titanium sheet donated by your company will be used in our bottom plate. This is a critical component to the robot because one problem we had last year was that our old aluminum plate bent to the point of dragging on the ground and rendering the wheels useless. Titanium is much stiffer and stronger than aluminum, and it’s only marginally heavier. We determined that Grade 5 titanium was the right fit for this application because it’s almost impossible to bend. Because we plan to weld nothing to the bottom plate, there should be no need for a replacement between both the regional and national competition.
The 0.5” plate will be used for the weapon of our robot. The reason we’re choosing titanium for this component is because it has much more strength than aluminum, which would break when it hits another robot, yet it is lighter than steel. The 15 pound weight limit is a very hard weight to stay under, so it’s important that we use materials that are as light and strong as possible.
PTG: What does it mean to attend a “STEM” high school? How does being involved with the STEM program benefit you now and in the future?
Kyle: Attending a STEM high school means getting a leg up against other students in the district. It means the difference between being bored in school and being excited and engaged. Right now, I’m able to both get the experience of a real engineering job in high school and taking college classes through Post-Secondary as a high school sophomore. This will enable me to fit right in once I get a job and be able to do so two years earlier in my life. I plan to have at least an associate’s degree complete going out of high school. I’ve been interested in the engineering field since 4th grade, and both the STEM middle and high school has helped me follow this dream.
Camden: STEM is a school that everyone can give a different explanation on. It’s not just simply “alright everyone, work this way, do this exactly this way, learn like this, and get out as soon as possible”. It’s “here’s a challenge, here are the tools to complete it, now solve it in a real-world way”. This feeds students’ creativity, and pushes them to learn in the most efficient way for them. This also sets up a support network with other students, as we are able to collaborate a lot. The great part about the school is that everyone has to dabble in a little bit of everything, just to see what they like, but then they go on to find their passion and work towards a future with that passion.
Kris: What it means to be involved with STEM is to have Ingenuity and Creativity. STEM keeps you on your toes by always throwing a challenge at students. By doing this it keeps us academically stimulated and not bored in school. Being involved in a STEM school allows me to have more opportunities with either a field in engineering or crime scene investigation. Due to the resources that allow me to learn more in those fields than most students, and with accelerated learning it will allow me to take courses in college so when I actually go to college, it will be easier not only to complete, but fit in.
Nick: Being a part of a “STEM” high school for me means that as a student of this type of school, we are willing to rise above the challenge of the regular high school experience to pursue something more difficult. When we do rise above this, our teachers are exposing us to more complex subjects such as the combination of biology and chemistry – biochemistry. By learning to tackle difficult problems and have a better idea of what we want to do in the future with the specific subjects, we can do programs that interest us like this robotics club now and pursue it as a degree later.
Jackson: I think what really sets a “STEM” school apart from other schools is that we are being exposed to different careers and higher levels of thinking that we didn’t even know existed. STEM teaches us that the world is not so black and white. It really prepares us for our future and we have fun doing it.
Mason: Attending a STEM school is a tricky question. On one hand, if you want to be an engineer or scientist, everything is right up your alley. However, I would not recommend going to a STEM school for a musical, theatrical, English based or Historical career as the support for that is much weaker. However, what sets us apart from other school is our diligence to commit to new subjects in the Math and Science fields and learn more about them.
PTG is very impressed with the initiative taken by these students and we can’t wait to watch them succeed! For more information on Team Xenos visit www.teamxenos.weebly.com/