FIRST Robotics team teaches their robot to play basketball

COUNTY — It’s not every day that you get to be part of a team that designs, builds and teaches a robot to play basketball, but that is exactly what the members of Pickens County FIRST Robotics Team 2751 are doing.
This year, FIRST Robotics teams from around the world are tasked with constructing a robot that must score as many basketballs in their hoops as possible during a two minute and 15 second match. Teams will have three hoops to choose from, and the higher the hoop, the more points awarded.
Since each year’s FIRST Robotics challenge is different, team members must use their knowledge of advanced mathematics, automation, pneumatics and other technical skills to develop a solution to the unique set of problems that year’s game presents.
An especially difficult element of this year’s build is the designing and programming of the video camera targeting system that will be mounted on the robot.
“The camera has been a challenge this year,” said team member Jared Frager. “There’s a reflective tape square behind the goals; the goal is to track that. We actually have the camera moving so if it doesn’t find the target right away, it will search for it.
“After the camera captures the distance data, the program will adjust the motor speed of the shooter to fit that distance. Then the operator uses a control to start the sequence to fire a ball based on that calculation.”
For Barry Sudduth, a team mentor, the number of different skills the team must use to complete the project highlights just how big their task is.
“There are a handful of disciplines that are required,” said Sudduth. “Mechanical skills are needed, electrical skills are needed for the wiring of the control system and the team has to write custom software to drive the robot that is designed and created to perform the game function.
“That’s just a list of things from a technical perspective; there are a variety of skills that are useful that students get a chance to use. This is a lot of work.”
Ray Farley, Executive Director of Alliance Pickens, is also impressed by the scope of work the robotics team is responsible for and notes the practical value of the FIRST Robotics competition.
“The opportunity to be exposed to highly technical concepts and apply them in a group project setting will continue to benefit these students long after the competitions are over,” said Farley. “Companies are looking for employees that have experience with the automated, robotic and computing concepts that drive their business in today’s modern manufacturing environment.
“By participating in the FIRST Robotics program, these young men and women will have a distinct advantage over many of their peers when they enter the workforce.”
If you would like to learn more about Pickens County FIRST Robotics Team 2751, contact Danny Fahey at (864) 397-1000.