Decatur robotics team returns to defend title


Global Dynamics (in blue shirts) watches their robot pass the ball to another robot. “Our team was pretty pumped,” sophomore Jean-Pierre Sacha said.

For those readers who don’t know that Decatur has a robotics team, we do.

And they’re good.

Last year, Decatur’s robotics team, Global Dynamics (GD), won the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition at the regional and state level, making it all the way to the international level.

This year, GD built up its coding skill and engineering expertise all for one thing: to defend their title as Georgia’s robotics champions.

Sophomore Devon Holloway had high hopes for the team’s performance this year.

“This robot was even better than last year, but we went against new teams and had new activities,” Holloway said.

Last year, the team used a coding language called Robot CC to teach their robot to throw a frisbee and to climb up a pyramid. This year, the robot did pull-ups, raised a flag and picked up balls and placed them in a box.

Holloway said GD spent “six intense weeks” of writing code and building machinery.

“I worked more on the . . . engineering of the robot,” Holloway said. “Each of us has certain skills we are better at [than other team members]. We have people who are really good programmers and people who like handiwork. And then there are also other aspects like outreach and marketing programs, an awareness program and a design team.”

Sophomore Jean-Pierre Sacha worked on both the engineering and programming of the robot.

“[Our robot] was unique because we had to salvage all our parts from old robots, which made it harder,” Sacha said. “There were eight motors, different controllers, and [after building] we tested it with programs from our laptops.”

When GD arrived at State, which was held at Southern Polytechnic University, they prepared for a competitive, energized experience. Holloway said that while “everyone wanted to win,” opposing teams treated each other with “friendliness” and “sportsmanship.”

“Everyone cheers for their teams, but they don’t want to see another team’s robot destroyed,” Holloway said. “There’s always that … Gracious Professionalism, as we like to call it in FIRST.”

Unfortunately, the robot performed inconsistently in the preliminary stages of competition. After settling into gear, however, GD’s robot completed all remaining tasks successfully.

“We blocked the enemy, cranked the flag and pulled ourselves [the robot] up on the [pull-up] bar all automatically,” Sacha said. “Max Brandwine wrote this really nice, clean program to do the tasks in one smooth motion.”

“Overall, we did very well,” Holloway said. “Next year, we should try to maintain and build upon our current progress.”

GD’s performance in the tasks left them in 14th place out of about 45 teams that competed.