Award-winning Dreadbots Open New Drydock in Dexter

By Audrey McMichael / Dreadbots Reporter

Dexter High School’s FIRST Robotics team 3656, the Dreadbots, have had many previous build spaces in different locations, but we have now found a permanent place to call home and continue building our robots.

All FIRST robotics teams need a dedicated build space to keep their tools, supplies, and computers, and to work on building their robots.  Since the Dreadbots have continued Dexter’s nautical theme for team branding, we refer to our build space as the Drydock, because that’s where ships (like Dreadnaughts) are built. The new location came just in time as our previous landlord, who had generously donated us space, had to change buildings, leaving us without a proper place to store our tools and build for the upcoming season.

After much hard work by the Dreadbots and school officials, we received a new space from Dexter Schools and were able to begin moving in this August.  Since we are anticipating approximately 50 team members for 2020, even our new space will likely be tight.

We hope to collaborate and reach out to other regional teams that have more space than we do (like Chelsea Robotics, who have a new robotics facility) to allow us to hold drive practice sessions before we begin our competition.

The team is now celebrating our 10th anniversary.

The Dreadbot’s New 3D Printing Lab, Nearing Completion. Photo by Gerry McConville

We are almost completely student-led with help and supervision from experienced team mentors with tools, safety training, planning, and logistics. Over our FIRST decade, we have won multiple awards and progressed to the world championships six times.

One of our more recent awards was from our pre-season competition at Kettering University. The electrical team was awarded the Electrical Systems award for our work in ultrasonics which helps the robot drivers easily position the robot to efficiently score points by putting the game pieces into the correct spot. This season, the team is made up of a third females, which is the highest it has ever been. We also look forward to the new members joining this year for our upcoming season (we had over 30 students attending our recent welcome event).

The new build space has far more benefits than our previous locations. Our space is 1,000 square feet, but we also have attic space we nicknamed “robot heaven” because that’s where we store robots from previous years. We also have dedicated areas for our machine tools and electrical space. These work areas are a lot safer and more practical than some of our previous spaces.

One of our favorite things about it is how close it is to the high school. Our past build spaces were often about 20 minutes from our school, but with our new location being at Wylie in Dexter, we now have the option to walk from school or take a short drive. With these savings in commute time, we can focus more on building and bettering our team.

Our mechanical mentor, Jim Bryson said, “Thanks to our generous sponsors, we have been able to increase the tools we have to teach more skills to the students and build better robots.”

The school location is also helpful because we have the ability to schedule other rooms for meetings or other activities. We also enjoy the fact that it’s a permanent space. On days that we get there early or on slow days we like to play on the playground just like when we were back in 3rd grade. In our previous locations, we had to worry about being able to pay rent or having to pick up and move again.

Fisheye view of Drydock Main Bay Taken from Robot Heaven. Photo by Gerry McConville

Dexter Community Schools have been very helpful in providing the space and making adjustments for us.

One unique thing we enjoy about our Drydock is the rubber floors we installed. These floors are a thick rubber originally made for horse stalls. They protect our floor from damage like sharp or heavy things being dropped and provide a lot of traction. They also make it super easy to maneuver the robot throughout the build space. Another thing the Dexter Community Schools did for us was to install special heavy-duty electrical power service. Our team no longer has to worry about tripping circuits and we now have the new ability to run two drill presses at once.

The lighting has also greatly improved compared to some of our previous build spaces and that can help a lot with dealing with small parts and using the machines. The Drydock has a garage door that is very helpful for loading and unloading the trailer that we use for competitions.

The 2020 Dreadbot team is excitedly waiting for the new game reveal on Jan. 4. Both the students and mentors are looking forward to building our brand new robot for this season in our new Drydock.     

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