Recycle Rush was a season of growth for Trident Robotics’ impact on the community. Many new programs were formed as well as increased efforts to find appropriate funding in order to create a more significant increase in STEM education in Gurnee, IL.

The team structure this year was modified in order to improve communication between the design and build processes of the robot. CAD team was converted into design team. Instead of being a team that took design ideas from mechanical and produced CAD models/working drawings, the team’s focus was now to create the ideas for the robot and deliver them to the mechanical team which makes the physical robot. This new line of communication contributed to the ease of design seen throughout the season. As opposed to the confusion of mechanical producing a part and then having CAD create it, hoping that it was compliant with other robot elements, the design process was thoroughly analyzed before any material was wasted. This season’s robot stacked totes and recycling cans. The robot’s first job in autonomous was to retrieve recycling cans from the middle of the field in order to minimize their usage by the opposing alliance. This was accomplished by the implementation of the KW. The KW was an attachment on the back of the robot that lowered over the recycling cans while simultaneously extending its arms to the side using a motor propelled, umbrella-like structure. The robot stacked totes using two side arms that contracted around the tote and rose in tandem. All of these elements were enhanced by a mecanum drivetrain which could easily maneuver between stacks and over platforms.

The robot competed at the Wisconsin Regional. It also competed at the Midwest regional for the first time where Trident Robotics was selected for the seventh place alliance and made it to the semifinals of the playoff rounds. Even though the robot was wildly successful, it paled in comparison to the expansion of community involvement created by the Chairman’s team. Trident Robotics became a stronghold in the community with the assistance of Mayor Kovarik of Gurnee. Once approached by members of the team, she graciously aided Trident Robotics with contacts to local businesses and social media publicity. Trident Robotics was able to give a presentation at the Advocate Care Center as well as the Warren Newport Public Libraries. Both venues catered to drastically different demographics: Advocate Care Center exposed STEM to the older generation while Warren Public Newport Library brought robotics to a younger generation.

The team also began volunteering in the community. Trident helped assemble and run the Northwest Regional Food Bank in Libertyville, IL. During this work, members were able to talk to others in different socio-economic positions while providing them with adequate resources to improve their living conditions. Another volunteering opportunity taken by team 4296 was with Feed My Starving Children. At this event, team members worked in an assembly line process in order to proportion and package MannaPack Potato-D. This formula is then shipped to third world countries who are struggling through disease and poverty.

The MannaPack Potato-D product is exclusive to the Libertyville branch of Feed My Starving Children and is produced less often than the regular MannaPack Rice supplements. The MannaPack Potato-D formula reduces diarrhea, a major source of dehydration in developing countries.

STEMbots was founded during this season. The STEMbots program targets preschool, elementary, and middle school students (ages 3-13) through hands-on application of STEM principals and robotics. The program also incorporates Common Core standards as used in many schools to develop students’ historical and artistic awareness. The preschool program focuses on mathematics, problem solving, and storytelling through the use of the LEGO

Math Train kit. Preschool students also explore simple machines via guided activities which include creating a seesaw, rolling vehicle, hockey player, and more. Elementary students are provided LEGO Education WeDo kits. WeDo allows students to learn programming and prototyping for robotics using LabView. Students utilize guided instructions to program LEGO construction for a specific purpose. MINDSTORM NXT kits are provided for middle school students. These kits are the same ones utilizes by FIRST LEGO League teams. The kits introduced students to the construction of chassis and the competition board for FLL 2011.