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Making a machine: an afternoon with the robotics team





This is how members of the robotics team describe build season, the six weeks they are allotted to build the robot.

As I stood in front of the robotics lab, a sensation of fear overcame me. What was I, someone who knows nothing about engineering, doing at robotics?

To my relief, robotics was not nearly as scary as I had imagined. Everyone was welcoming and happy to help me understand what was going on. People were working on different things: some were drilling, others were working on the wiring of the robot, and some were socializing.

Some of the tasks seemed a bit intimidating to me, so I decided to do the simpler jobs: I cut a piece of metal.  They were replacing a metal part of the robot that they’d found a flaw in with a better material.

First, you mark off the spot where it needs to be cut. There are two machines that can be used: the horizontal bandsaw and the vertical bandsaw. I opted for the safer of the two, the horizontal bandsaw. I positioned the metal so that it lined up with where it was going to be sliced. Then, I tightened the two sides of the machine so that the metal was secured in place. I flipped a switch, and slowly but surely, a blade came down and cut the metal in the marked spot.

After cutting the metal, I had to file it to make sure that it was smooth and would work properly. The robot has a bumper that goes on the outer side to protect it in the case of collision. I also helped screw in some bolts to attach the bumper to the robot.

People were working on fixing the wiring of the robot; something wasn’t working correctly. They were also preparing to weigh it to make sure it was within the weight limit.

The robotics team has a great community feel. Although they’re always hard at work, they have fun. Music is played, people laugh, dance, and have a good time.

Now that build season is over, the team has moved into competition season. They think this year’s competition will go well, as last year they were finishing up the robot at the competition. •