Project 691 Robotics ramps up for competition season

Coach Aaron Dolgin, right, and Project 691 team members discuss the design of their robot at West Ranch High School on Saturday, January 04, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Not only is it their winter break, it’s also a Saturday. But that won’t stop the team members of Project 691 from getting together to brainstorm out their engineering designs for their competition robot for upcoming season.

In April 2019 the team members of Project 691 were informed that this years theme for their challenge would have something to do with Star Wars and Disney, however the exact specifications of the course they would be competing in were unknown.

Until Saturday.

After the unveiling occurred during a live Twitch stream, students learned that they would need to launch objects through an opening, pull their robot onto a bar that swings and be able to detect color on a wheel and spin it.

Project 691 team members discuss the design of their robot at West Ranch High School on Saturday, January 04, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Colors have never really had that big of a say in the game,” said Aaron Dolgin, one of the team’s coaches, during Saturday’s first brainstorming session.

Congregating back together at West Ranch High School, the 40 or so team members began to dissect the challenge, strategize and problem solve by breaking down the game into smaller more manageable problems.

Although no robotics building would be done on Saturday, the ideas that were flowing and the collaboration was one of the most important parts to Project 691’s season, according to team members.

Project 691 team members discuss using a lazy-susan to test their robot’s task at West Ranch High School on Saturday, January 04, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Our goal isn’t to win or anything, but of course that’s fun when we do,” said Team President Tarun Murugesan. “But we just want to learn different aspects of the team (from) business, to mechanical to electrical programming and outreach… I joined more for the mechanical aspect, being able to build the prototype designs first and then we build everything from scratch … but you do not have to be tech savvy.”

“I want to go into engineering, and I felt that the best way I could learn about engineering is actually doing it,” said Vinay Bidin, the team’s vice president of membership. “You’re actually like building robots, and you’re actually implementing ideas that you learned in classes like science and calculus.”

The robot they build can cost upwards of $5,000, and entry to the tournaments can cost almost as much, Murugesan said. Knowing how to fundraise with community partners, as well as coordinate and work with other teams on the engineering leaves a wide variety of specialties for people to find a home in on the team.

Project 691 coach Aaron Dolgin, left, and mentor, Elizabeth Onesti discuss the designing constraints of their robot at West Ranch High School on Saturday, January 04, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“You get to learn soft skills and technical skills, such as teamwork and bonding, in general,” said Olivia Onesti, secretary of the team. “There’s a lot of fun people here, which I (enjoy hanging out with). They’re a bunch of nerds (like me). I mean that’s not something everyone would agree with, but for me, I feel like I fit in.”

The team’s first competition will be from Feb. 28 to March 1 and take place in Newbury Park. Project 691, which is made up of 9-12th grade students from across Santa Clarita, will need to have completed their robot by that time. They will spend every Saturday afternoon till the end of March together in order to ensure the robot is completed.

For more information about Project 691, visit their website at https://team691.org/.

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