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Posted: 03/20/13

RALLYING ROBOTS. Above, Romeo High School senior Joe Smith of the Byting Bulldogs works on the team's robot at the FIRST Competition held March 8-9 in Waterford. The team made it to the semifinals at the competition and is hoping to make it to the world championships this year. Above left, the team's robot prepares to hang from the bottom rung of a pyramid structure during a match.

(Photos courtesy of Dan Gardner)

Byting Bulldogs fare well
at Waterford competition

Observer Staff Writer
      One of the most challenging years for Romeo's robotics team may turn out to be the one of the most successful.
       After making it to the semifinals at the For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics district competition in Waterford on March 8 and 9, the Byting Bulldogs is setting its sites on heading to the world championships.
       The team will test its newfound confidence at the district competition on March 29 and 30 at Troy Athens High School.
       Dan Gardner, team coach and mentor, said despite a tough start due to technical issues, the team ultimately performed well at the first event of the year.
       "There were a lot of good teams at Waterford, and there will be a lot of good teams at Troy, so both competitions are extremely competitive," Gardner said. "It's nice to see we could compete with the better teams in the state."
       This year's FIRST competition is called "Ultimate Ascent," and requires the student-made robots to fire discs into goals. The difficulty of a shot determines how many points a team earns for each successful goal.
       For 15 seconds the robot performs in autonomous mode, and in the remaining two minutes drivers control the robot to score points manually.
       The round ends with robots hanging from a three-level pyramid structure. The higher they climb determines the amount of points awarded.
       Gardner said this game was the most difficult task the team has faced yet, so it came up with a plan to overcome it. The strategy focuses on making as many goals as possible while using the discs that fall to the floor when other robots miss a goal. By picking up discs with its robot, the team can forgo reloading it manually and use that time to shoot goals.
       In addition to saved time, the Byting Bulldogs determined it could use the pyramid as a guard to protect its robot from others while making goals.
       "Not many can travel under the pyramid," Gardner said. "We could take shots all day long and nobody is bumping into us or bothering us."
       At the end of the round, the robot<named "Consuela"<simply hangs from the first rung of the pyramid for guaranteed points.
       "We have no regret for the strategy," Gardner said. "When all things are working correctly, we're a very high-scoring team."
       FIRST judges took note of the team's robot, awarding it the Motorola Quality Award for its robust quality and design.
       "Our robot is very effective, it's one of the better robots in the state," Gardner said. "Our team is now making plans for potential world championships this year."
       Even with this optimism, the team has a different hurdle to clear. When competing at the state competition, a $4,000 entry fee is required. If it makes it to the world level, it must pay another $5,000 to enter.
       "You want to do well, but when you do well you're pretty much handed a bill," Gardner said.
       Along with modifying its robot, the team is now determining ways to fund-raise for the paying the entry fees. Though it's a daunting task, Gardner said the team is motivated by the fact that it created a robot that could go to the world championships in April.
       "We have a lot of new kids on the team this year, and the possibility of going this far with new kids is very exciting to be able to give them that experience," he said.
       The Byting Bulldogs made it to the FIRST world championships in its first-ever year of participating in 2010.
       For more information, visit

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