X-Machina overcomes early issues to make team history


Abby Gost

Emily Gost and Coach Law work on a robot during the Central Illinois Regionals.

By Joshua Tarafa

After six weeks of intense preparations and countless hours spent trying to make a competitive creation, Lane robotics, also known as X-Machina, traveled to Peoria to take on some of the best teams in the state in their first competition of the year.

They competed for three days from March 16-18 at the Central Illinois regionals. The event got off to a rocky start for X-Machina, as they arrived for the first day of practices. The team noticed the robot wasn’t functioning properly.

Robotics coach Mr. Durham said that it took the team nearly 13 hours to make all the necessary changes for the actual matches.

“Because of all the changes that had to be made we actually missed all of our practice matches on that Thursday,” Durham said. As the competition went on Friday, the team continued to tweak their robot and by the fourth or fifth match the team said that they felt it was working like they wanted it to.

“We were competing, at that point, with the best robots in the field,” Durham said. Despite multiple problems ranging from electrical issues to the climbing mechanism not functioning, the team still managed to push through their scheduled matches.

The robot’s complications and the intensity of the competition brought high stress levels for some of the team members. But tensions and anger didn’t emerge mainly because of the philosophy of the coaches, Durham said.

“One of the things the coaches try to do, is try to remind them that when you’re competing in something, it doesn’t matter if it’s sports or robotics, it’s going to get stressful,” Durham said. “It’s going to get hard, but it wouldn’t be if you didn’t throw everything you have in it.”

He said that he felt the stress was a result of how much they cared about the team and all their hard work.

A student member of X-Machina, Abu Qader, Div. 760, said that the hard work of the team included practice each day after school until about 7:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. He said the practice and the competition helped the team improve.

“We had our ups and downs and at the end of it, we came out a lot more experienced and a lot more focused on some things we need to do,” Qader said.

One of the biggest accomplishments of the competition for the team was that their 150 pound robot managed to tackle the climbing event.

“This is the first time in our team’s history that we have ever been able to do the climbing portion of the competition,” Durham said.

The Peoria competition had an alliance based system that the team competed in. On Saturday after all the qualifying matches were done, the higher seeded teams were allowed to pick other teams to be in their alliance. At the end of Saturday when the competition wrapped up, X-Machina had climbed as high as 4th place at one point but in the end were unable to finish with their alliance due to mechanical and electrical issues.

The team also competed in the Midwest regional competition at UIC from March 30- April 1, for a chance to advance to the World Championship. For these competitions the team said that they had to make specific improvements to their robot.

“We need to work on the drive chain to make it more reliable, and the second thing is the gear mechanism,” Qader said. The drive chain is the mechanism that allows the wheels to move like on a car. However, there are multiple types that should allow for 360 degree motion.

As for the gear mechanism, it is an important part of playing the game. The game involves dropping the gear on a peg and Qader said the team is looking to improve their speed in this event.

Emily Gost, Div. 983, also said that she looks forward to having success in future competitions with the improvements made to the robot. Despite the stressfulness of the competition she said she thought the team held up well.

“It was hard when it was going on but it was worth it,” Gost said. She handles all electronic related issues that may occur during the competition and she said that she expects the team to win because she thinks they have a good robot.

Whether it is the Regionals competition or the World Championship, Durham said that the team works well together and at this year’s Peoria competition they really showed it.

“They were able to pull it together and I wouldn’t say that anybody performed less that what we expected them to perform,” Durham said.