Gearheads gear up for state, world competitions

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 10, 2018

 The No. 1189 Gearheads robotics team, which comprises Grosse Pointe North High School and Grosse Pointe South High School students, work on their robot, Triton.

The No. 1189 Gearheads robotics team, which comprises Grosse Pointe North High School and Grosse Pointe South High School students, work on their robot, Triton.

Photo provided by the No. 1189 Gearheads robotics team

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Their heads are in gear.

The 45 Grosse Pointe North High School and Grosse Pointe South High School students who compose the First Robotics Competition No. 1189 Gearheads robotics team have built plenty of momentum this season. According to the team members, they are currently ranked eighth in the state.

Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots. The Gearheads are part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition. FIRST is dedicated to bringing engineering opportunities to students in elementary, middle and high school.

The Gearheads robotics season began in January when the students used their talents, skills and knowledge to build their own robot, which they have named Triton. FIRST’s build season ran Jan. 7 through Feb. 20.

“You have six weeks to perfect it,” said South senior Joshua Rigotti, who is the team’s build captain and robot driver.

Although the work can be challenging, Rigotti assured, “It’s very fun.”

Each of the Grosse Pointe high school students has a different job on the Gearheads team. North junior Trinity Diehlee, for instance, is the fabrication captain and the technician during competitions. The Gearheads rely on South sophomore Naomi Ozormoor for public relations purposes; she also is a team designer.

South senior Josh O’Grady and North junior Chris Fong were elected by team members to be the co-captains. North autism spectrum disorder teacher Jason Wolfsen is the Gearheads’ robotics coach and faculty adviser.

In keeping with competition guidelines, Triton the robot has a frame of 28 inches by 30 inches and stands 4 feet 5 inches tall. After each individual competition begins, the robot can expand as high as the team wants and can reach 16 inches outside the frame. The team meets five or six times a week during competition season.

South junior Chloe Skiles said the team receives a kit with robotics parts to assemble that includes wheels, motors, frames and basic control components.

“We design our own robot and fabricate it,” Skiles said. “We have a CAD team that will create a piece of the robot and get measurements for the fabrication team.”

South junior Govind Suresh is the coding captain.  

“We program everything on the robot. We tell motors to turn and program the sensors that we have. There are a lot of different things you can experiment with,” Suresh said. “There is a library of functions online you can use to control the robot. We also reference past codes.”

According to North sophomore Evan Reickert, this year’s competitions have required the students to use the robots to pick up milk crates, move them along an obstacle course and place them through a designated chute. The 10th-grade student said the robots in competition can weigh no more than 120 pounds. Triton weighs in at 116 pounds.

The current season
Reickert’s mom, Eileen Reickert, is one of the mentors who helps the team. At the competitions, robotics teams from various high schools compete against each other by maneuvering robots they built through an obstacle course. The robotics teams compete in a round-robin format and even form alliances with teams from other schools. The students earn points based on how well their robots were built and can compete. Teams can win awards, and depending on how many points they earn, they can win awards and move to the next competition.

The Gearheads competed in a district competition March 8-10 at Center Line High School in Center Line, where the team earned FIRST’s Chairman’s Award and ranked second overall. The Chairman’s Award honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate, and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.

The team also headed to Bellville High School in Bellville March 22-24 for another district tournament where the team ranked second overall. The Gearheads won an alliance award, the Innovation in Control Award and the Safety Award. The control award is given for the team’s robot that has unique or effective wiring and/or coding. The Safety Award is given to the team for helping others and putting safety first.

This week, the team is competing at the state competition at Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw April 11-14. If the team earns enough points, the Gearheads will compete at the world competition April 25-28 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Because of the volume of teams participating, Eileen Reickert said another world competition will be held in Houston with different teams from those in Detroit.

The Gearheads have existed for 15 years, and over the years, the team has competed against teams from Australia, Turkey, Israel, Canada, China and Japan. General Motors Co. is a current sponsor, and its donations help pay for the team’s supplies, competition fees and other expenses. The students also use recycled parts every year.

For more information on the No. 1189 Gearheads robotics team, visit Details on becoming a sponsor, mentor or making a donation can also be found on the website. New members are welcome.