Local robotics team goes to FTC state championships

Jay Deegan, Staff Writer

“Working Title,” a local robotics team partially made up of Naperville Central students, went to the First Tech Challenge (FTC) state championship on March 12 and placed 30th out of 36 teams.

FTC is a robotics league for grades 7-12 where teams compete to complete a set goal. Each year, the competition goal changes, and teams have to build a robot in an 18-inch cube shape. “Working Title” is made up of 11 students from the Chicagoland area, with four from Central. 

This year’s competition format is called “Freight Frenzy” which has the robot moving around a “warehouse” on the floor and completing objectives.

“We go into a warehouse, pick things up, go out of the warehouse and put them inside of another container,” captain and Central senior Brian Lu said. And the goal for this season is to do that as quickly as possible. A robot accomplishes this task by having a very large pivoting arm in the center of the robot.” 

Because of the complex nature of building a robot, programming it and controlling it, many complications can arise in the process.

“Our arm is a very difficult thing to control,” Lu said. “We ended up having some control issues in terms of how we were getting it to swing around. It has 270 degrees of freedom on its main carousel, though it ends up being a little difficult to lock into certain positions, especially as most of that is software controlled through counting pulses on the motors. To improve we’re going to add some sliding and stops.”

After making it past regionals, however, the team still had a lot of work to do. 

“After regionals, we really wanted to improve the actual reliability of the robot, because sometimes we would have issues of the arm stopping in the wrong place and getting stuck,” said William Wang, a hardware designer on the team and Central freshman. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen at state. That isn’t very good for your score if that happens.”

Past the building, programming and competing, the team also tries to make a positive impact on the surrounding community.

“We perform a variety of outreach events,” Lu said. “For example, a few of our team members come together over the season to expand some FIRST robotics outreach towards the Down Syndrome community by going through Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome achievement center.”