Bagged and Tagged: Team 525’s robot ready for beginning of FIRST competition season

For the last six weeks, some of Cedar Falls’ up-and-coming engineers have been working tirelessly to build their robot. On Tuesday night, Feb. 21, it all came to an end.

The high school robotics team, known as team 525 Swartdogs, is a part of FIRST robotics competition. This program challenges over 3,000 high school robotics teams from all over the world to design, build and program a robot in six weeks. The set of tasks is released in the first week of January, and teams have until mid-February to finish their robots.

After build season, teams participate in competitions in March and April, culminating in the championship event in St. Louis. This year’s game is called STEAMWORKS, which involves launching 5-inch diameter wiffle balls into a goal 8 foot tall, placing 11-inch plastic gears onto pegs, and at the end of the match, getting the robot to climb a rope.

Team 525 hosts a scrimmage toward the end of build season each year, to allow teams to experience the game on a full field before attending a competition. The eighth annual scrimmage took place at Peet Junior High this year, with 17 teams from Iowa and Nebraska in attendance. “The scrimmage was a lot of work, but it was really valuable for a lot of teams, especially rookie teams, to get a feel for how the game would play out on the real, full-size field,” head coach Kenton Swartley said.

Regarding his first robotics event, Peet freshman Lucas Shaw said, “It was really interesting to see a whole field set up and a whole match going at once. It was really fun.” Sophomore Megan Pezley said she also enjoyed the event. “While I had seen the robot driving around at the Doghouse [the team’s build site], it was different to see it on a full field. It was also neat to see other teams’ robots.”

At the scrimmage, the Swartdogs figured out what they needed to change on their robot to make it work better. They put this newfound knowledge to good use in the final days of build season. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, all teams had to put their robot in a bag per the rules of FIRST robotics competition, and they won’t be able to get their robot out of the bag until they arrive at their first event. The deadline for having robots bagged and tagged was Tuesday, February 21 at 10:59 p.m. Central Time.

“This was a bit of a time crunch, but it was really good to see the robot in its finished state,” sophomore Alex Glascock said. “I think this was a good deadline to work up to, and I think we did really well working up to it.”

Junior Xiang Zhao, however, expressed his remorse for the end of build season. “Bag and tag day is one of the saddest days of my life,” but sophomore Randev Goonesekere had a brighter outlook on things. “This is my one experience to drink Mountain Dew because we stay up until 11, but it’s a fun time.”

Team 525 will reunite with their robot next week as they travel to Duluth for the Northern Lights Regional. They will later compete in the Iowa Regional at the McLeod Center on March 23-25, and the championship event in St. Louis at the end of April, should they qualify.

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