The Cyber Coyotes are state bound

Reed City's robotics set to compete for title Dec. 17-18

REED CITY — Robotics is already an integral part of our technological advancements in society, and now they are becoming a big part of academic achievement in many schools. After Reed City Middle School’s robotics team’s success at the First Inspires Qualifier competition, the group is seeking another win at states.

The school’s robotics team, the Cyber Coyotes, has been hard at work preparing for their next challenge. Josh Johnston, a seventh-grade teacher at Reed City, has been working with the students and helping guide them through building the robot.

Emma Johnston, an eighth-grader, helped grow the club after initially joining.

“I started because I really like tinkering with things and knowing how things work,” Emma Johnston said. “I also figured it would be a good experience for my offseasons, and I began two years ago as the drive captain, and I would tell our drivers what to do on the floor.”

On Nov. 16, the team competed in the First Inspires Qualifier in Fruitport and ended up coming hope with a Design Award for their efforts. This judged award recognizes design elements of the robot that are both functional and aesthetic.

The Design Award is presented to teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution. The robot should be durable, efficiently designed, and effectively address the game challenge.

Each member of the team has different roles and interests that served the team well for this year’s competition. Seventh-grader Austin Davenport enjoys the tech side of the robots.

“I got into robotics last year because I was in a tech class with Mr. Johnston and I joined after he invited me to practice,” Davenport said. “I really liked doing the programming side of things in robotics.”

Sixth-grader Hailey Fenton said she joined because of her curiosity in robotics.

“I decided to join the club because I really wanted to learn how to design a robot and I thought it would be really cool,” Fenton said. “You really don’t need any experience to learn about this kind of thing, which I really like.”

Emma Johnston said this year the group has been teamwork-focused.

“This year, we’ve really focused on our robot being team designed,” Emma Johnston said. “With everything we do, we always have a brainstorm session, a design session, and then building testing and trying things out. A lot of our goals include everybody, so we work a lot on our outreach, like in December we’re going to have an event where we’ll let people try out our robots and learn more about them and the club. This year, 15 people on our team are rookies and three or so who have done it before.”

“Competitions are a lot about going out to the other teams who are friendly,” she added. “We want to make friends because we are not currently aiming to be the best, but we want to be with the best. We’re currently working on our capping element which are cones that get picked up and put on top of the shipping hub on the floor, so we came up with the claw to achieve that.”

The team named their robot "The Wellerman," and it includes several components for specific functions like the retractable claw used to grab and move things, as well as strong compact passive wheels for easy traveling on surfaces.

Seventh-grader Roan Johnston said for the state competition they plan to make more improvements as the season progresses.

“We just changed the robot to a real motor and not a servo motor, and we made it really compact so we can fit through the 13-inch hole,” Roan Johnston said. “This is the first year our bot hasn’t had a complete mechanical failure, our bot had really excelled.”

Austin Davenport said the team hasn’t been without trouble along the way.

“One of the issues we’ve had lately is with automation and helping it move on its own,” Davenport said. “We actually just got that working recently, and it’s the first autonomous robot we’ve had, and it’s been a challenge solving problems that come up.”

The group said they were excited to win the Design Award at their last competition and hope more wins will follow.

One of the unique parts of the team’s robot is that many of the intricate parts of the body are 3D-printed right in the classroom.

Emma Johnston said the team’s focus is mainly on technical and group growth, not dominating the competition.

“We owe a lot of our ability to 3D-print to our teammates who did a lot of research and work on how we could put all of these things together,” Emma Johnston said. “Personally, we’re hoping to do well at states but it’s really just an honor to be able to go and compete with these great teams from our area. We’ve still got a long way, and we’re hoping to get to worlds but we’re just happy to have made it this far.”

The Cyber Coyote’s advancing to the state competition is the first time any Reed City School’s robotics team has ever made it to a state-level competition. Emma Johnston said another goal is to continue growing the team’s numbers, and that the team intends to have an after-school program.

“It’s a big milestone this year, and we’re hoping to keep improving,” Emma Johnston said. “Our group is always open, and new people, we want you to come to have fun with us, so reach out and come outside your comfort zone. We’re hoping to have a program after school where kids could come tinker with things and see what we do, and eventually have a whole big team.”

Roan Johnston said one of his goals is to complete a three-day bot build.

“In a three-day bot build, you basically come in and prep our entire bot for the game and then the builders put together the actual robot while the programmers get the coding side done,” Roan Johnston said. “I think it would be a really fun project and challenge to try and take on.”

Moving forward, the team will continue making adjustments on their bot before the state competition to be held Dec. 17-18 in Battle Creek.