Bomb Squad is Back in Action

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Katarina McFarland, Writer

Due to COVID-19, FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) had to put last year’s in-person competitions on hold. Despite the slow season, Bomb Squad (FRC Team 16) is making a big comeback at the Ozark Mountain Brawl. 

The event will take place at Harding Academy in Searcy, Arkansas from October 15 to 16. More information can be found here. That Friday, teams will set up their pits and practice fields will open. Qualification matches won’t begin until the next day. 

Bomb Squad will be taking Warthog and their defense bot from the 2020 season. 

“Warthog is a really well-rounded robot. There’s not a lot it cannot do. The one comp we got to go to with Warthog [2020 Arkansas Regional], we won,” says junior and media lead Audrey Young. 

Due to the 2020 season being cut short, the Ozark Mountain Brawl will be a great opportunity for the team to get their bots back on the field… but how will this year differ from previous ones? 

“As far as the game goes, it’s difficult to provide any guesswork as to what the game could be,” says Hall of Fame captain Kaylee Drake. “In regard to in-person tournaments overall, I think it’ll be great getting back into the usual routine. Since we were unable to compete in in-person competitions last year, this year will hopefully allow us to have a season close to ‘regular.’ By that, I just mean being able to travel and visit with teams across the world.” 

As per Drake, the team doesn’t work on their robot until the season begins in January. Once FIRST releases the game that year, they have six or so weeks to build a robot that will complete the tasks needed to gain as many points in said game. 

However, getting first place and making beneficial alliances requires strategy. Some teams will make a compact defense bot; others, a more agile robot that can speed across the field. Depending on the game, there are several factors that need to be taken into account, so it’s close to impossible to tell what the robot will look like until the game is released. 

With that being said, the team is famous for their “swerve,” a term used to describe (and nickname) their drivetrain. It allows for the team to drive at any angle (as opposed to a bulkier combination of an X-Y axis) at high speeds, so we’ll likely see that in the following year. 

Off-season or not, FRC is an exciting and hands-on opportunity to gain an appreciation for (and learn more about) STEM. Bomb Squad is a Hall of Fame team, which means they’re invited to compete at the World Competition every single year, in addition to regional tournaments. 

Drake says, “I’m most excited for competition season to begin… In the past, I’ve gone to Detroit, to Chicago, to Huntsville, Alabama. It’s an amazing experience that largely reflects the immense effort we put into the robot. Additionally, I enjoy being around my teammates and sharing our passion for innovation together. It’s rewarding to see others flourish in a new environment full of like-minded individuals.” 

As an example of last year’s robot, here is the video of the Warthog.