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Concord High FIRST Robotics team a Tidal Force to be reckoned with

  • FROM LEFT: Team members Abby Maynard, Emily Soule and Caleb Marcel consider how to build a mechanism that will pick up rectangular boxes during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Tidal Force team members consider how to build a mechanism that will pick up rectangular boxes during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Senior Mark Spain uses a drill press to make parts for a prototype during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Students test some early code on a practice robot during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Students begin constructing an electrical panel for this year’s robot during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • FROM LEFT: Amanda Enderson, Joe Sedutto, Josh Shamash and Ian Macaig lean over a practice robot as they test some early code during a meeting of the FIRST Robotics Team at Concord High School on Jan. 12, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, February 01, 2018

Building a robot from scratch is no easy feat.

Add in that it has to be able to complete a number of complicated tasks – including moving and lifting blocks and even doing a pullup – and it gets even tougher.

But that’s the task put forward by the FIRST Robotics challenge, where high school teams across the country feverishly design, tinker and build their way to a series of competitions every spring. And Concord High School’s Team 1721 “Tidal Force” has risen to the challenge.

Last week, Tidal Force solidified its robot design following a final design review.

Emily Soule, 17, a senior at Merrimack Valley High School who joined Tidal Force before her own school started a robotics team, called the review one of the most important days for the team.

“We need to know if this direction is going to be the most beneficial for us,” she said in the lead-up to the review. “It’s whether or not that idea is going to work, why this idea doesn’t, how we’re going to do it and why.”

And that’s just what happened.

The team made an hourlong detailed presentation to STEM industry professionals who critiqued their design the way they would pick apart proposals made by real-world engineers.

Concord High juniors Abby Maynard and Ian Macaig recounted some of the concerns and feedback the team received during the Q&A that convinced them to reconsider a core system of their bot.

“We actually changed our entire drivetrain from what our original plan was,” Maynard said.

The team was originally looking to try something new and complicated, but the design review panel questioned the cost associated with such a design – not just monetarily, but in time, energy and resources.

Time, in particular, is something in short supply.

“The whole robot depends on how the drivetrain works, and we need to have as much time to build the robot as possible,” Macaig explained, adding a thought in the hypothetical: “If we did not have a drivetrain ready as soon as possible, it would not be as easy to build the rest of the robot.”

With their design set, Tidal Force hopes to build a robot that will bring them back to the world championship – a goal they achieved last year for the first time in the program’s history. Last year’s success also came in the form of a Judges’ Award handed out during the New England District Championship.

When presenting the special award, the judges acknowledged the team’s growing roster of 33 students, up from only three students two years earlier. They also recognized the team’s diversity, which at the time was 44 percent female and 18 percent LGBT-identifying.

The team has grown even more since last year, with 36 students on the roster this time around.

Like the rest of the teams across New Hampshire and beyond, Tidal Force has to complete its robot by Feb. 20.

Team Info

Team Name: Tidal Force (1721)

School Affiliation: Concord High School

Rookie Year: 2006

District events attending: NE District UNH event; NE District Greater Boston event

Students on roster: 36

Leadership: Amanda Enderson (captain); Zach McMenemy (assistant captain); Josh Shamash (software lead); Caleb Marcel (hardware lead); Emily Soule (outreach lead); Rosie Speidel (safety captain); Abby Maynard (scouting lead); Ian Macaig (Franklin liaison)

(Elizabeth Frantz can be reached at efrantz@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lizfrantz.)

Editor’s note: The Monitor will be featuring the FIRST robotics teams from Concord-area high schools in the coming weeks.