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The Biddeford High School robotics team reaches the world championship

Colby Perron, Staff Writer

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Straight out of a science fiction movie, Biddeford High School students participated in a world championship of robotic proportions.

On April 17th, 2017 a small group of BHS students took to the skies with a single goal: to win the robotics world championship. The BHS team made it to ´worlds’ by participating in many different robotic challenges throughout Maine and succeeding in being one of the best teams in the state. Freshman and first time robotics team member Gavin Bastarache explained how the team made it so far.

“We [Biddeford High School] had three teams,” said Bastarache. “Each team had their own robot. We all went to the qualifier and all of us made it to the state meet. During states, two of the teams got chosen for different alliances.¨

Lucky for the BHS team, all three smaller teams were champions and were able to make it to the world championship.

“Only five teams made it [from Maine], so being one of those five, I think, is one of the coolest things that could happen to us,” Bastarache said.

Along with the team´s success in all making it to states, the BHS robotics team also made history. They are the first robotics team in Biddeford history to make it to the robotics world championship.

“This is the first world robotic competition that the school has ever gone to,” said Bastarache. “I feel really privileged to be a part of this, because it is my first year participating in the robotics team and it was also the first world championship we attended.”

Fellow Robotics team member, senior Alec Frechette, had a similar experience to Bastarache, however, with a different take. Rather than beginning a career in BHS robotics with a world championship invite, Frechette ended his with the championship.

“We’ve made it to the state meet a few times before,” said Frechette. “But it’s really nice to have made it to worlds at least once in my high school career. I’ve been part of the team for a while now and it’s nice to see something that I’ve worked so hard for be accomplished.”

At the world championship event, the event is predetermined, allowing the participating teams to design and perfect their robot months in advance.

“The event is different every year, but it’s an event that every team can participate in,” said Frechette. “This year, we had two teams with robots on opposite sides of a fence. Each robot had to pick up and throw different objects over a small fence onto the other side where the other robot would try to do the same.”

The BHS team split roles in creating the robot, having Bastarache on the construction team. Bastarache explained the intricacies of creating the perfect robot.

“It took us about two and a half months to fully construct our robot,” said Bastarache. “Its programming takes even longer to do, so we have [Frechette] to do most of our programming.”

When constructing the robot, Bastarache was challenged with a few restrictions that would make the robot eligible for participation in the meet.

“The size limit [for each robot] is eighteen inches cubed, the vex robotic pieces must be made of metal, and we are limited to a maximum of eleven engines,” Bastarache said.

Once the construction of the robot wrapped up, then Frechette took it and did much of the programming for the robot.

“Even up to the day of the challenge, we still tweak our robot and make sure that it is working exactly as we need it to,” said Bastarache. “[Alec Frechette] has a big part in it, spending a lot of his extra time in Mrs. Lane’s room to make sure our robot is perfect. If it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t have a robot.”

Frechette explained that he has a lot of roles on the team, forcing him to take a lot of time to tweak the robot even after school hours.

“I’ve been on the team officially for two years, but I’ve done a lot of work on the robot outside of school too,” said Frechette. “I’m the designer, engineering notebook creator, driver, and team captain. I do quite a bit for the team, but really it’s a team effort through in through.”

The team spent lots of time constructing and programming, but according to Bastarache, the testing period is the most tedious.

“A lot of robotics is trial and error,” said Bastarache. “We need to test it, figure out why something went wrong, fix that, and continue with that pattern. Depending on how big of an issue it is, making sure that the robots work perfectly could take up to a few weeks.”

The Robotics team ended its year at the world championships with an overall score of 85th place out of 564 teams. For Frechette, this was a last hoorah, sending him off with a successful ending to his robotics career. However, for the rest of the team, Bastarache believes that there is “a bright future ahead.”

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