Flaming Monkeys 2
By Kathryn Menue
BELVIDERE – The Flaming Monkeys 4-H Robotics Club recently won the 2016 Midwest Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).
From Thursday, March 31 through Sunday, April 3, the Flaming Monkeys, made up of 24 Boone County high school members, traveled to Chicago and battled in a robotics competition where they came out victorious.
The winning alliance, consisting of the Flaming Monkeys, Pwnage, and Robot Casserole, defeated the Wildstang, Gear it Forward, and the Joliet Cyborgs alliance.
The win for the Flaming Monkeys came with a lot of hard work.
“In mid January, FIRST (which stands for: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) releases game video” for competitors to see what their robot must do in competition, Mark Libby, a member of the Flaming Monkeys, said. “From there, we have six weeks to design, build, program, and test the robot.”
Team Coordinator Dee Sternhagen said that in the preparation period, the Flaming Monkeys met five to seven times a week to ready themselves for competition.
Libby, a senior of Belvidere High School in the Running Start program, is one of the members who frequently met to finish their robot.
Libby also is a driver in competition, who controls the robots forward, backward, and turning movement in game play as their robot played the defensive side in regional competition, which Libby said can be difficult sometimes.
“You have to be able to adjust before, during, and after matches,” Libby said. For instance, a robot might stop working in the middle of a match and the other teams in the alliance would have to adapt to the situation to ensure the alliance’s survival in competition.
Despite the stress of these unknown factors, Libby said competition is the best part.
“I love competition. It’s very exhaustive. It’s very draining—physically, emotionally—but it’s very fun,” Libby said.
The robotics competition featured alliances facing off against each other in an obstacle course set in a medieval backdrop. In the arena, the robotic alliances collected boulders and maneuvered their robots through obstacles and across enemy lines in order to rack up points.
Once they crossed the barriers, the robots continued to score points by shooting their boulders in the opposing team’s turret.
After the robots scored enough points, they would breach the enemy’s castle to collect more points.
The alliance that had the highest score by the end of the match won.
On top of taking the overall title, the Flaming Monkeys won “The Jack Kamen Imagery Award.”
“This award celebrates attractiveness in engineering and outstanding visual aesthetic integration of machine and team appearance,” Sternhagen said. “We combined this year’s medieval theme with our flames on the robot, pit, and our outfits.”
The imagery award is thanks to the hard work of the teens on the media team. They came up with the castle themed pit, and designed the tunic, dresses, and jester outfits for the team to match the medieval theme of game play.
The media team is a part of the Flaming Monkeys’ four sub-teams.
The sub-teams include: CAD, which focuses on 3-D model design of the robot; Build, which assembles the robot and welds it together (which they accomplished for the first time this year); Programming and Electrical, which does all of the technological programming and wiring of the robot; and Media, which focuses on marketing, and image design.
However, the media team, along with the other sub-teams, is not done yet. Since they won the regional competition, the Flaming Monkeys will move onto the championships.
On Wednesday, April 27 through Saturday, April 30, the Flaming Monkeys will strive for another win as they travel to the First Robotics Competition in St. Louis, Mo. at the Rams’ Stadium.
This round of the First Robotics Competition is the international championships, which will highlight the 600 best robotics teams from around the world.
In the meantime, the media team will need to rework the Flaming Monkeys’ image by touching up the pit, creating a team scrapbook for display, designing and creating flyers to hand out at competition, adding robot imagery, and creating more cohesion in the team’s uniforms.
The Flaming Monkeys will also have to organize, pack, and ship their equipment to St. Louis for championships.
The team will increase practice hours as well. They will meet every weekday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and occasional Sundays until competition.
After championships, the Flaming Monkeys will continue their efforts.
They will recruit new members in June and in the fall if there is still room. They can include up to 30 members.
The Flaming Monkeys will train the rookies, reach out to the community more, thank their sponsors with a recognition dinner, and begin preparations for competition next semester.
For more information on the Flaming Monkeys, visit: www.flamingmonkeys.org.
For more information on the First Robotics Competition, please visit: http://www.firstchampionship.org/.
To learn more about the robotics competition, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqOKzoHJDjA or watch the Flaming Monkeys in actual competitive game play at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMxaAch5JLY.

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