MCCC Robotics team headed to world championships

MCCC’s Vex-U Team Virus, right, defeats The University of Toledo during the winter qualifier tournament Jan. 13 at MCCC

Vex Team 3547: Virus, the college’s robotics team, is headed to the world championships.

On Jan. 13, Team Virus defeated eight university teams at the winter qualifier tournament to secure a trip to the World Championships.

Helping to claim the victory was the team president, Maribeth Mohn, who operated the robot alongside the driver, Carlin Huisman. Kaleb Harrison was the second operator for their primary robot.

According to Mohn, Harrison is the main operator.

Mohn said the team did far better than she expected at the tournament, which was held at MCCC.

“We were one of the most prepared teams that came there,” Mohn said.

Some of the teams that were in attendance came from schools like Michigan State University, Purdue University, and the University of Toledo.

Compared to last year’s competition, this one was almost twice as large. There were 14 teams competing, compared to the nine from last year.

“We also brought two newer Vex teams to compete here, that started last year as well,” Mohn said.

The competition ended with MCCC‘s Team Virus scoring the highest award possible, the Excellence Award, which won them the championship.

The competition between the robots is simple.

“We have yellow cones and mobile bases and we have to stack the cones on the mobile bases or stationary goals,” Mohn said. “We get two points for every cone stacked on a mobile base or stationary cone and we also get points for scoring the mobile bases in different zones. We get five bonus points for having the highest stack in different zones or the stationary goal. The first zone is a five-point zone, the middle 10 points, and the last one is a 20-point zone.”

“It’s very focused on everything that is going on, where you will get lost in working on it and lose track until the last 10 seconds in a match, and then make some mistakes like knocking your stack over, so it’s very intense and very focused,” Mohn said.

During each match, robots are allowed to work independently for the first 45 seconds of a match. The last minute and 15 seconds are operator-controlled.

Both Mohn and Benjamin Garlepied, the vice president, said there are several things they are going to be focusing on as a team to help prepare for the World Championships, which will be April 26-28 in Louisville, Ky.

“At this point in time, we have the robot built to where we want it to be,” Garlepied said.

“For the most part it’s just maintenance and making sure we have a handle on the controls, especially this year because of autonomous time.”

Mohn brought up several areas they could improve upon.

“Most of our preparations, we are working on our autonomous and programming skills so that we can score points faster,” Mohn said. “We are also considering building a second robot to help with point scoring.

She said they also will practice keeping track of the time and driving.

Building such a wonder bot takes a lot of work, according to Mohn.

“We start when the game is first released in April,” she said. “After we gather all of our ideas, we start by designing the robot in CAD, along with building prototypes of different ideas.

“By the time the fall semester started, we probably had the drive base and the bottom of the primary robot done and built, while everything else in CAD was done.”

Each step of the building process is a team effort. They also utilize Google Drive to keep things cohesive, despite varying schedules.

Harrison, who also is one of the builders, said he strives to help their ideas become reality.

“I do some more of the build that our captain comes up with, and making them feasible,” Harrison said. “He can come up with the designs, but I have to get them to work.”

According to Mohn, the crucial part of the robot is the drive base.

“The drive base is the bottom part that has the wheels and in this game, the drive base is like a mobile base that can pick up other bases.”

Team Virus is composed of students from MCCC and several other universities.

“The best thing about Vex-U is that everyone doesn’t have to be from the same school,” Mohn said. “Students from two or more schools could form a team together, the only requirement is they have to be enrolled in a college or university.”

Aside from Garlepied and Harrison, the team also has Maddison Emmerich, a student at Kettering University.

“We do have some members that have been on the college team for longer,” Garlepied said. “So, they have like one more year of experience, but they still have more experience than us.”

Team Virus’s goal is to help promote STEM education fields to current and future MCCC students. The team also diligently works toward enriching the local community through community service.

Mohn also noted that Team Virus is always looking for new members.