Tampa Bay’s Oldest High School Robotics Team to Storm the Castle at the 2016 FIRST Stronghold Competition

Published on 11 March 2016 in News
Kim Thomas (editor)

Kim Thomas

Team Krunch

Team Krunch

In 2016, more than 3,000 teams comprised of more than 78,000 students from around the world will compete for glory in FIRST STRONGHOLDSM. Dubbed a varsity Sport for the Mind™, FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. It’s the only school sport where all members may turn pro if they choose. Teams of 10 or more high school students (ages 14-18/grades 9-12) are challenged to build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors, raise funds, design a team “brand,” and hone teamwork skills. It’s as close to real-world business and engineering as a student can get! 
With only six weeks to build, program and test their robot, Tampa Bay’s oldest high school robotics team in its 19th season, East Lake High School’s FIRST Team 79 KRUNCH has been working busy six-day weeks to design and construct their champion contender. The team unveiled their robot during Media Night at East Lake High School on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd. “We are so proud of the time and dedication these students, mentors, and our new coach Taycora Canfield have dedicated to this team,” says Valerie Lockwood. “Many have worked up to 25 hours a week.” She adds, “Aside from building the robot, Team 79 KRUNCH students have also participated in community service, fundraisers, and started a new chapter of JRFLL (Jr. FIRST Lego League) to expand and grow STEM in our community!” 
This year’s team president is ELHS Senior Pierce Hitchcock, who has been accepted to the Aerospace Engineering program at Embry-Riddle, explained some of the challenges the robot must conquer in a medieval themed game of “dodgeball” where the robot must score with a 10-inch ball into a high goal and a low goal. FIRST Team 79 KRUNCH’s robot is limited to a specific weight of 120 pounds and features a hook design that will grapple a 6-foot high bar. It includes a loading mechanism that retrieves “boulders” to fire into a small goal. It will also consist of mechanisms and a drive train designed to conquer several types of obstacles such as an area of rough terrain, a raised drawbridge, and a lowered castle gate. Pierce says, “We have defenses in our way – walls we have to lift, obstacles on the ground, and we have to get through those defenses to score. 
There is an autonomous mode where the robot must perform programmed steps automatically for 15 seconds.” Pierce explained some of the commands software engineers use – encoder tells the robot the distance it needs to travel and potentiometer determines the amount of rotations it needs to make. 
Coach Taycora Canfield says about the FIRST program, “I really like what it does for our kids socially. They learn life skills they can take with them whether they go into engineering or not.” Ms. Canfield says that she talked to the team about ways they can get younger students interested and Freshman Jake Lockwood volunteered to help. Now Jake and others from the team are mentoring the Jr. Lego program at Excel Creative Learning Academy. Jake says, “We build a robot – yes, but we also inspire other students to become engineers.’ 
Along with the development of the Stronghold robot, ELHS’s FIRST Team 79 KRUNCH consistently participates in community outreach. In the last year, the team has conducted 28 demos including the SPARK and Rotary Club demos, and it continues to mentor VEX, FLL, and FRC teams at primary schools in the area supporting the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Outside of robotics the students participate in food drives, Relay for Life, the annual “Angel Tree” collection and the Pinellas Mobile Hazardous Material Collection. The team consists of sixty students guided by mentors from Honeywell, GE, and other local corporations involved with STEM. 
“This transitional year has proven to be a milestone in Team 79 KRUNCH’s history,” says coach and ELHS teacher Taycora Canfield. “The students, mentors, families, and school personnel have pulled together to continue this great program. Our team is eager to unveil this year’s robot and take it to Stronghold!” 
FIRST® TEAM 79 KRUNCH ROBOTICS, 1300 Silver Eagle Drive, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688; www.teamkrunch.com; Team79Krunch@gmail.com
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