On December 10, the N.E.R.D.S. team met at either the school or home of Mr. Nelson to take a trip to observe the Smithville Missouri Qualifier. Those attending were Nathan Meyer, Kevin Henggeler, Caden Peck, Michael Burke, Connor Labryer, and Colton Swalley.
After the drive to the school gymnasium, the team went inside, and was immediately greeted with tables everywhere, surrounded by parts, people, and most interesting of all, the robots. In a corner was a miniature practice arena that players could use. Most robots demonstrated particle ball shooting skills, as it was an effective way to gather points. Many had rotating bars, or scoops and funnels, that would pull a ball into the robot for it to launch. Many seemed purpose built to fire the particle balls into the center vortex hoops, using catapult-like systems to fire the ball. One unique one caught the team’s attention. It was built to fire the ball by using to spinning wheels to jet it straight up, onto an angled sheet of plastic. This would ricochet the ball into the hoop. However, we did not choose this idea to expand on, seeing as since it had to hit the hard plastic, it lost a good deal of velocity and momentum. Some robots took to firing the particle balls up the corner ramp. They usually were formulated with a spinning bar or scoop to funnel the ball onto tools to fire it with, usually being a spring loaded plate, a bulldozer scoop, or a bar that could reverse and throw the ball outward. They would just repeat the cycle of firing the ball, retrieving it, and firing it again. While, if done correctly, it could rack up points, just one twenty point shot could save so much more time than twenty of these one point shots. So, we decided to ignore this as well. We then saw something monumental: The first robot that could lift the cap ball. It brought out a three-pronged claw, similar to those that you see in arcade crane machine games. The third and top prong was brought up and out of the way, so the ball could slide onto the two others. It then fell, clamping back down. With the ball secure, it raised it slowly upwards using a kind of telescoping crane system, operated through pulleys. It then jerked forwards towards the center vortex, and dropped it in. After seeing this task done, we immediately after talking with their team on it, went in search of others like it. Two others had ideas like it, using even halves of tennis rackets as the curved prongs. Most others were not even paying attention to the cap balls. This was a great error, in our view, due to the monumental points those who were able to lift a cap ball received. We were pleased with all the inspiration we were gathering, but would have to leave. Due to misinformation, the matches actually started at 2:00, when we were supposed to already be home. However, we were satisfied with what we had seen, and went for lunch at Culver’s, and then went home.
This trip was considered a large success. We can hope that this newfound inspiration will carry the N.E.R.D.S team through the competition ahead.