PAOLA — Robots are a product of the 20th century, but this year FIRST Team 1108 Panther Robotics and other teams from around the world are taking their robots back to medieval times to play the 2016 game FIRST Stronghold.

Teams gathered on Jan. 9 to watch the game announcement via an online webcast. Panther Robotics team members watched the game announcement at a pot luck breakfast at the home of Bill and Lisa Hauldren in Paola.

FIRST Stronghold challenges alliances of three teams to breach their opponents’ castle defenses and attack the opposition tower with boulders. Alliances earn points as the defenses fail and the tower weakens, finally teams can scale the tower during the last few seconds of the game to increase their point total.

Defenses include the Portcullis, Cheval de Friese, Moat, Ramparts, Drawbridge, Sally Port, Rock Wall, Rough Terrain and Low Bar.

Making the game more challenging, the audience will have a say in a portion of the castle defenses, and the opposing alliance will be able to set certain defenses based on previous scouting. The interchangeable defenses present thousands of different field sets for each match.

As in past games, the first 15 seconds of the match has each robot operating in autonomous mode, solely on commands programmed by each team. During the final two minutes and 15 seconds of the match, robots are controlled by the human players.

This is the most intense time period for FIRST Robotics teams, as each has just six weeks from the date of kick-off to design, prototype and build a robot to play the game. On Feb. 23, each team must “bag and tag” their robot to take to a regional or district competition.

After two weeks of brainstorming and prototyping, the students have designed and are currently building a compact robot that features a six wheel tank drive with 10-inch pneumatic tires. Dual pick-up mechanisms each capable of scoring boulders in the low goals have been included, along with a catapult designed to score points in the high goal.

The pick-up mechanisms are also capable of opening the Portcullis and Sally Port. The six wheel drive will enable the robot to traverse other defenses such as the moat, ramparts, rock wall and rough terrain. The compact design will allow the robot to go under the low bar. Also designed is a lifting mechanism to climb the tower during the end game, this feature will be included if time and weight restrictions allow.

FIRST Team 1108 will compete in a pair of regional competitions this season, traveling to the Greater Kansas City Regional on March 10-12 at the Business and Technology Center of Metropolitan Community College. Two weeks later the team will travel to Denver for the Colorado Regional from March 23-26. The FIRST World Championship will be held from April 27-30 in St. Louis.

FIRST Team 1108 has 23 members, nine girls and 14 boys. The team, started in 2003, meets Wednesday through Sunday during the build season to construct their robot. Team member parents provide meals for the team each day and students work on the robot or other committee work each evening.

The FIRST Robotics experience goes beyond just building a robot. FIRST Team 1108 members take part in a wide range of activities, including media and audio/visual, fundraising, marketing and community relations.

In addition, the team competes for a wide range of awards, including the prestigious Chairman’s Award. The Chairman’s Award is the highest award given to a team at each regional competition. It is given to the team that best exemplifies the ideals of FIRST Robotics. FIRST Team 1108 Panther Robotics has been the recipient of the Chairman’s Award eight times.

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