BRHS team finishes second in state robotics competition

Four Seahawks collaborate designing robot ‘Disperse’
Posted:  Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 7:45am
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A Boothbay Region High School team placed as a state runner-up March 6 at the 2018 VEX Robotics Championships at Biddeford High School.

A quartet of BRHS students — Hayden Brewer, Connor Demmons, Gerald Gagne and Max Hoecker — designed a robot called “Disperse” and teamed up with a Cape Elizabeth High School team to place second out of 49 teams.

The Boothbay Region/Cape Elizabeth Alliance was defeated by state champions Foxcroft Academy, Mount Desert Island and Hampden. The 2017-2018 VEX Robotics Challenge is called “In the Zone.” The game teaches students lessons about applying science, math and technology with robotics, problem-solving and computer programming.

Teams are tasked with designing and building a robot to compete against others in a game-based engineering challenge. Robots are built with various devices which must be contained within an 18-inch by 18-inch dimension. The game is unique in that it requires competitors in early rounds to become allies in later ones.

During preliminary action, “Disperse” showed an ability to lift mobile cones and goals simultaneously due to a mechanical arm. The function is valuable in gaining points. The robot’s ability attracted attention from the Cape Elizabeth team which scored high enough in early rounds to pick a good robot teammate for championship rounds.

“Disperse” wasn’t the only BRHS robot competing in Biddeford. Senior Jay Hasch and junior Blake Erhard finished in the top 20 with their robot “Dirty Dan.” In November, “Dirty Dan” had a solid qualifying round in Farmingdale placing in the top eight teams out of 37 in the preliminary rounds. Hasch’s and Erhard’s robot had no mechanical breakdowns during the state competition, but struggled against more aggressive teams. Hasch and Erhard finished 18th.

Boothbay’s third robot struggled in the early rounds with mechanical failures. Senior Tyler Field’s and sophomore Quinn Ranta’s robot “Main Frame Meltdown” lost its first five matches. Field and Ranta discovered and fixed a mechanical problem and rallied to win the robot’s final three matches.

“Scoring high in the early rounds is important because you get selected by a better team. Our robot didn’t work right in the beginning so when it came time to pick a partner, nobody wanted someone near the bottom,” Field said.

Despite posting Boothbay Region’s best team result, "Disperse" almost didn’t qualify for the state meet. During the Hall-Dale qualifying rounds “Dirty Dan” and “Main Frame Meltdown” both qualified. However, "Disperse" didn’t. It took a top five finish by Hoecker in a later individual competition for "Disperse" to qualify for the state championship.

“They take the top qualifier in the individual competition into the team state championship. The four others in the individual competition had already qualified for states. Since I was the top finisher who hadn’t already qualified for states our robot was selected.”

BRHS students began building their robots in October during the first semester class Advanced Robotics and Applied Physics. Students use knowledge learned from the two disciplines in developing a robot for competition.