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This robotics competition season was a good one for the Dexter High School Dreadbots. Their robot made it further along in the world championship playoffs than any Dexter robot ever has.

At the State Meet, the Dreadbots were ranked 2nd in their field and 29th in the state of Michigan, earning them a place at the World Championships in Texas, which was held the week of April 17-20. In Houston, the Dreadbots placed 7th in their field of 75 teams, narrowly missing out on a spot in the finals.

The Dreadbots also earned one of only a handful of regional “Engineering Inspiration” awards, which means they’ve qualified to be considered for the National award.

Hearing this exciting news, the Sun Times News (STN) followed up with the Dreadbots and connected with Penelope Babe and Mason Portice, Co-Captains of the Dexter Dreadbots Team 3656.

STN asked them what helped them have so much success this year.

They said there were a handful of reasons, starting with a massive influx of new students.

“Many freshmen and new students joined the team, and most of them were very involved throughout the season,” they said. “Also many experienced upperclassmen capable of teaching skills and keeping things running smoothly with all the new students.”

Dreadbots in action.

The Dreadbots in action. photo courtesy of the Dreadbots

The team was very student-led team with mentors supporting them in getting to where they, as students, wanted to go.

Babe and Portice said the team demonstrated high levels of dedication.

“Several students spent over 20 hours a week at the buildspace throughout the season,” they said.

Another part of their success came from what they called good strategic design.

“We broke down the game challenge into smaller pieces, and decided early on what we wanted to focus on,” the Dreadbot co-captains said. “This allowed us to allocate our resources to what we deemed worthwhile. While our robot physically couldn’t do every part of the endgame, our design was very good at scoring in a specific game element that many teams struggled with. This more than made up for the point loss from ignoring endgame, and made us very appealing when working with other teams.”

The Dreadbots Robot ready for competition. photo courtesy of the Dreadbots

One positive development this year was this was the first time they used CAD (Computer-aided design) to design their Robot.

“Our team has no CAD mentors, and our school has no CAD classes, so this has been a struggle for us in the past,” Babe and Portice said. “One of our students has spent the last few years learning CAD and running workshops to teach it to the rest of the team. This was the first year we had the skill level to design every part of the robot in CAD.”

They said this allowed them to quickly prototype, save money on materials, and ensure every subsystem worked together. It also allowed them to use CAM technologies to cut their shooter box out, which made it much more accurate and predictable than when they cut it by hand.

Another secret to their success was their willingness to try new things, which they describe in these points:

    • “The pivoting arm on our robot was critical to our design working; however, we have never made an arm like this before. We spent the first week of the season researching other robot designs until we felt comfortable designing one of our own.”
    • “We also went all in on swerve this season (a style of drive train/wheels that is similar to that of a shopping cart). While we did first introduce it mid-season last year, because we committed to it first thing this season, we were able to refine the controls to work very well for our robot.”
    • “We got new drive controllers (PS4 controllers), which gave us more refined control with the joysticks, and gave us the ability to use the haptic rumble of the controller to give our drivers feedback on what the bot was doing in matches.”
    • “Our programmers set up the ability to log data and replay matches digitally. This allowed us to look at everything the robot was doing – motor movement, robot position, battery voltage, etc. – and easily diagnose issues after matches.”

And finally, they also said very good scouting helped play a part.

“We had a team of people watching every single match at our competitions and recording data on how robots were scoring,” they said. “This allowed us to find ways we could work with those teams and maximize our scoring. This also helped select strong alliance members for playoffs that complimented our abilities. In several cases, it also helped us plan around what we thought our opponents would do based on their previous matches, and plan our driving and strategies around that.”

Here are the Dreadbots:

Penelope Babe, Luke Baur, Noah Bower, Arman Buyukbozkirli, Darren Cronstrom, Felix Davis, Kaleb Delancey, Rose Dray, Christoph Fermann, Olivia Gusoff, Liam Harkness, Brandon Hermann, Cole Herron, Stella Hill, Peter Hilliard, Asher Huhn, Dexter Krueger, Izzy Martinez, Conner Masterson, Sam McDole, Santiago Mendez, Hanne Nielsen, Fynn Nielsen, Aodhan O’Neill, Calvin Ophoff, Nick Palazzolo, Martino Pavesi, Dillon Penn, Oliver Pham, Calvin Portice, Mason Portice, Max Rogers, Cory Schimelfenig, Jackson Sharp, Drew Sheffield, Nick Sherman, Mathew St. Romain, Nicholas Tessmer and Will Weiszhaar

The Dreadbots. photo courtesy of the Dreadbots

 

 

 

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