Despite a rocky start, local robotics team wins regional title.
By Mary O’KEEFE
The Circuit Breakers 696 robotics team from Clark Magnet High School is heading to Houston as regional champions.
“We went undefeated,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a senior at Clark.
The team competed in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) in Ventura and the Los Angeles regional competitions.
“We broke a lot of stuff at our first competition,” said teacher and robotics mentor Bryan Ghoslin of their time before and during the Ventura competition. “But no one backed away. We knew we had to address the [problems].”
And they did. They even broke things on the robot two days before the Los Angeles regional. Ghoslin knew the team was strong but to go undefeated in the LA Regional was a surprise.
At the beginning of each year, FIRST shares the details of a game for that year’s season. High school robotic teams then work for six weeks to create their robot that will play that game. This year the theme was transportation and the game was a variation of basketball. To earn points team members and robots needed to get “cargo” balls into the hub that is in the middle of the field. Cargo balls can be thrown into the highest hub or pushed into a lower hub. In addition, at the end of the match, the robot climbs onto bars, raising itself off the floor. There are four levels of bars.
“Each match begins with a 15-second autonomous period, during which time alliance robots operate only on pre-programmed instructions to score points by taxiing from their tarmac and retrieving and scoring their assigned cargo hub,” according to FIRST.
During the remaining minutes two and 15 seconds of the match the robot continues to score points by using the cargo balls and then hanging on the bars.
“We averaged the highest out of all the teams [at LA Regional] with the number of cargo balls we scored,” Lewis said. It wasn’t just accuracy but also speed that made the 696 robot team undefeatable.
But the road was not easy to come out on top of this competition.
“We broke our entire climbing mechanism at [Ventura],” Lewis said. “In Ventura we placed eighth.”
But the team fared much better in LA when, after 11 qualifying matches, it earned first seat for the alliance, which allowed the team to choose two other teams to be part of its alliance. They chose a team from Irvine and the other from Granada Hills.
This is the third year that Lewis has been on the Clark robotics team. He is the head of manufacturing.
“We have industry standard machines [at Clark],” he said. “Very few schools in the country have them.”
This is Ghoslin’s first year as robotics teacher at Clark but not the first time he’s been affiliated with a FIRST team. He graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in 2013 and was part of the school’s Falkon 589 team all four years. He then served as a mentor for another eight years.
“I knew I wanted to get into a lead mentorship position but never thought I would be at 696,” he said.
He added he saw the strength of team 696 from the minute the school year began. Robotics is a class at Clark for students from sophomore to senior years. It has an after-school robotics program, too, that freshmen can join.
At the beginning of the school year, the robotics team students told Ghoslin they wanted to win the regional competition. According to Ghoslin, they were very focused and never gave up while continuing to improve their robot.
Not only did team 696 win the LA Regional, due to its total offensive scoring capability it ranked within the top 10 of all the 8,000 robots that have competed in FIRST.
Team 696 heads off to the FIRST Championship Competition in Houston on April 20.
“It feels amazing to see all of the hard work of the students to pay off,” Ghoslin said.
The competition and the trip to Houston is expensive and the team could use some financial support. The team is still working on a donation prompt on their website; however, those who would like to help the team can do so by writing a check, made payable to Glendale Unified School District, and in the memo section write Clark Robotics, then mail to Clark Magnet High School, 4747 New York Ave., Glendale, California 91214.