Heartland’s Robotics Club members – Back row L – R: Leo McCormick, Austin Schmidt, Jack McCormick, Ben Janzen. Front row: Devin Homolka, Brady Goertzen, Ryan Hiebner, Andrew Franz. (not pictured Jordan Nolan) photo courtesy Austin Schmidt
The Heartland Robotics Club is in full swing and already had its first pre-season competition back in mid-December at Columbus Lakeview. The Heartland program is fairly new since it began in 2019 and is led by Heartland Science teacher Marc Regier.
Last year was one of Heartland’s most successful years when they were able to win awards in the qualification rounds and engineering, enabling them to enter Nationals, where they placed third overall. Educational robotics is a great way for students to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “These kids did very well at the pre-season competition, and with their effort, I’m sure they will have some success this year,” said Regier.
Heartland participates in the OPEN CREATE Foundation League, where they are given a new project to work on each year. They start building their new robot in mid-October after football season. The league gives them the specifications, skills, and goals of what their robot will be required to accomplish at competitions.
They have a designated classroom where they meet daily after school with a 12 x 12 square table, which is the field where the robots work. The robot consists of a movable physical structure, a computer brain to control its movements, a power supply, and a sensor system.
Here is the 12 x 12 field practice field with the netted goals and red and blue zones. Pictured are some of the team members present at a practice session holding a few of their robots–L to R are Leo McCormick, Jack McCormick, Austin Schmidt, Ben Janzen, Ryan Hiebner, and Andrew Franz. The last photo shows the robot picking up an acorn.
At competitions, the robots are required to complete tasks fully automated for the first 20 seconds, and then for one minute and 45 seconds, the robot is driver-controlled. Points are awarded when the robot is able to place “acorns” in the netted goals on each side of the field and in the corners. A PVC pipe divides the field into red and blue offensive zones, and points are given for reaching these zones.
“We usually have 7 or 8 qualifying matches at an event, and then depending on how we score, we are selected for team alliances and final matches,” said Austin Schmidt. Like most of the other team members, he began participating in robotic competitions in the junior high Lego League.
Here’s what it looks like at a competition when they are competing against another team. Brady Goertzen is on the left, assisting Andrew Franz next to him with the controller. Photo courtesy Marc Regier
Andrew Franz is Heartland’s designated driver who runs the controller, and he’s assisted during competition by Brady Goertzen. The team has built another robot so they can split into two teams and compete separately this year.
Before the competitive season begins, the team works on learning the new objectives required and then begins building a robot to best achieve those, according to Ben Janzen. “Once the robot is built, we spend time doing practice rounds. It’s like any other sport where practice is important, and we get a feel for it as the season progresses.”
After every meet, the team reevaluates their performance and makes the necessary upgrades to be more efficient, said Janzen. Austin Schmidt does most of the coding for the robot, which has to be configured for the automated segment of the competition and all of the controller buttons.
Here is their competition schedule for 2024: January 20 – St. Paul (canceled), February 3 – Cross County, February 10 – Columbus and Nationals is held in Council Bluffs, Iowa, March 21-23.