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Bedford to host FIRST tournament

Robots ready, team primed for competitors


Mark Damazyn, left, Charlie Cook, center, and Matt Stewart of the Bedford Express team work on the shooter for the Frisbee-throwing part of the competition, one of two functions the robot is to perform.

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TEMPERANCE — Bedford High School’s robotics team, the Bedford Express, is getting ready for a big weekend.

The team will host its first tournament, expected to attract 40 teams from across Michigan and 1,200 visitors, Friday and Saturday at the high school.

The pits open at 8 a.m. Friday and close 12 hours later. Opening ceremonies are at 10:30 and matches begin at 11. Pits open at the same time on Saturday, with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., and matches starting 30 minutes later. Elimination matches start at 2 p.m., and the awards ceremony will be at 5.

Team members were busy this past Saturday readying their robots and observing strict rules.

The competition, called FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — is an international high school contest that pits teams of students against each other.

Students may take no more than six weeks, from design to assembly, to build their robots and are allowed six hours working on their robot on an “unlock day” before a tournament.

The robots may weigh up to 120 pounds without their batteries and must perform a physical function. The Bedford robot can perform two functions: It “shoots” a Frisbee and climbs a pyramid.

Bedford Express showed its pluck at the FIRST Robotics district competition in Detroit this month.

“In a practice match shortly before the official matches, we took a spill from the pyramid,” coach Debbie May said in an email. “We luckily landed on the bumpers and were able to make some minor repairs and get out for our first match.”

Everything went well until the team realized the robot’s tail was not fully retracted, which would subtract from the team’s score. When the driver retracted the tail, a slight shift in weight caused the robot to topple to the ground, leaving the team with “a smoking, twisted mess of a machine,” Ms. May said.

No matter. With good humor, Bedford Express soldiered on. It did some rewiring and unbending, repaired a broken weld, and began making parts. Three and a half hours later, after missing two matches, it was back in the competition, continuing with repairs between matches.

The next day, the Bedford Express robot made a successful pyramid climb; the team ended up 24th out of 40 in the tournament, a respectable finish considering the team forfeited two matches.

The team was honored to be the first pick of the Gator-Bots from the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn to join them in group competition. But the real distinction came with the GM Industrial Design Award going to the Bedford Express. This honor goes to the team that best demonstrates “an elegant and efficient machine to effectively and practically address the game challenge.”

The judges, who saw the robot take its fall from the pyramid, said of Bedford Express: “At the start of the competition, this team’s robot lost its grip and tumbled, sending up smoke like the Polar Express. But with their iron-clad design and ‘I-think-I-can” attitude, they have persevered to be able to climb to the top of the mountain and stay there.”

For Ms. May, this made all the work and time spent on the robot worthwhile.

“To say that I am proud of my team is an understatement,” she said.

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