Working one day after school in February at Shoemaker High School, members of the Cyberwolves robotics team labor alongside mentors and teachers to build the robot they will use in regional competition today through Saturday in San Antonio. The team hopes to earn a spot at nationals.
By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald

The Shoemaker High School Cyberwolves begin their quest this week to return to national FIRST Robotics competition.

The 30-member team and their rolling remote-controlled robot will compete at a state regional meet today through Saturday in San Antonio, with top winners to qualify for a run at the championship in St. Louis this April.

The Cyberwolves will bring lessons learned from the championship event in Atlanta a year ago; members confidently claim they are even more prepared with this year’s robot.

The Shoemaker students, who are part of the school’s STEM Academy, began designing their robot for competition on a uniform date in

January and have worked after school and on weekends to program and test the robot.

Following the FIRST competition rules, the completed robot was sealed in plastic in a storage area at the school earlier this week prior to the San Antonio regional event.

On Tuesday, students continued to work on a pair of mini-bots, designed to climb a metal pole as part of the robotics game. They also worked to perfect programming and polish their cheers in connection with the spirit portion of the event.

This year’s competition requires robots to stack inner tubes on a rack and to deploy pole-climbing mini-bots.

“It’s a lot harder this year, but we’ve learned more,” said senior Robert Stockman, who was a driver for the team last year and is construction leader this year.

Dr. Sandra Melendez, STEM Academy coordinator at Shoemaker, said the team has taken advantage of a grant-purchased 3-dimensional printer to enhance the design phase of the project.

Using Inventor software and the 3D printer aided team members in building specialized parts such as a claw to grab the inner tubes.

“It was harder, but we improved the design (phase),” said junior Juan Sanchez, who was a member of the Cyberwolves team that won the Houston regional event last year to qualify for nationals.

This year’s team hopes to challenge seriously for the regional championship, which would be shared among a three-team alliance.

In addition to the robot itself, the Shoemaker team is working on elements to compete for a Chairman’s Award, Design Award and Spirit Award.

“What I like best is when we build and create,” said freshman Wesley Tavares, who was part of the group working after school Tuesday. He pointed to the claw as an example of a piece that required engineering skill to produce.

Melendez said students are learning engineering and design skills to prepare them for jobs most people can’t yet imagine.

FIRST Robotics emphasizes teamwork and respect for opponents they call “gracious professionalism.” During the three-day event, teams will divide into alliances and work together to earn points.

Students operate a pit work area to adjust their robot, drive the robot in the scheduled competitions, keep up with their own points and other teams and lead cheers to build spirit.

Tavares nodded and smiled at his team’s chances this week. “I know we’re going to win.”