Alotobots team members at their first competition in early March.
In their fourth year, Otsego’s FIRST Robotics team is finding its groove in competition. They are now geared up for their 2nd contest of the year.

Otsego’s FIRST Robotics team, the Alotobots #5152, proved they could play with the big boys in their FIRST Robotics competition this year in St. Joseph. They made it to the finals and, at one point, were in 10th place; they ended the contest in 23rd but are now ready for the next regional competition this weekend near Lansing.

This is the fourth year for Otsego’s robotics team, “We’re a lot more prepared. We know what we’re doing, we know how to update things.”    

Like all FIRST Robotics teams, the Alotobots had six weeks to plan, design, build and program their robot to meet the tasks of this year’s FIRST Robotics challenge which was called Steamworks. It’s an 1800’s Victorian steam-powered challenge. They had wiffle balls that their robot has to be able to throw in either a high or low goal. They also have gears they have to take and give to another player to put on a steamship; when that happens, they’ll spin to make it look like it’s taking off. The robot also has to climb a rope to reach the top of the tower.

Teams have to learn how to work with other teams. At competition, there are two alliances that face off; each alliance is made up of three schools, “In an alliance, there’s a lot of strategy involved,” says senior Jamie Hare. “You have to know what everyone is doing and what you will do.” Depending on the tasks it can perform, they earn points. “You try to figure out how you’re going to get the most amount of points. The goal is to do everything well, but usually each team has one thing they do very well.” Teams strategize the tasks they can do best and build a plan around that. That first competition really showed the students what their hard work was capable of. Even though the team finished 23rd out of 40 teams, they were in 10th place at one point and made huge strides in knowing how to tackle the next contest. “I’m really happy with what they did and everyone knows what to do to do better,” says Michael Miller, the robotics team lead mentor.

The team made it to the finals and by the end was performing one of the most difficult tasks which is getting their robot to climb a rope to the top of a tower. Once the first competition was over, the team was able to get back to the building and programming to make the necessary fixes for the next competition. They’ll begin competing Friday, March 24th. The competition wraps up on Saturday.

You can follow them on Twitter at @alotobots.