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Dan Qian and the SparTechs Reign as Judges’ Favorite

Sarah Walters and Allison Borelli

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Two years. 730 days. 17,520 hours. All spent in the pursuit of one thing: robotics. Okay, not really, but a good portion of senior Dan Qian’s time since sophomore year was used to make history, when Southern Lehigh’s robotics team, the SparTechs, won the Judges Award at a March 19 competition at Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey.
The first 15 seconds of every match all robots must drive without human interaction, which is where Qian’s effort shined the most.
“When the SparTechs won the Judges Award, it was clear [it was for] Dan Qian’s autonomous program, Build an Auton 2.0.” sophomore team member Brandon Myung said.
This is the first time in the SparTechs’ 15-year history that the team received the Judge Award, which is given when the judging panel decides a team’s unique efforts, performance, or dynamics merit recognition.
The Southern Lehigh senior was motivated by need to make an application differing between two programming systems.
“I was frustrated with having to write new code every time a minor change was needed, since this would take time and wasn’t completely reliable,” Qian said.
His first try was using “a drag-and-drop” method which is similar to the Lego Mindstorm Robots. These are the same robots used in middle school and in high school Foundations of Tech class.
Using the school robot he went through trial and error processes to eliminate minor issues.
“There were plenty of times I hit walls or almost hit people testing it,” Qian said.
Qian’s frustration is understandable, as one small error in his code could cause the entire program not to run, or fail. This application has not only bought the SparTechs more time but saves them from possibly losing a competitions due to minor issues that could throw off the whole task of the robot.
“[The first time we used the program] I would honestly say I was relieved, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work,” Qian said.
The application, called Build an Auton 2.0, has even caught attention from other teams, who used the program and have given positive feedback.
Qian said the award would not have been possible without the support of robotics team coach Mr. Robert Gaugler and the other members of the SparTechs, specifically junior Ben Zalatan who helped code the app, and senior Josh Wentling who produced an advertisement the team plays at competitions.

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Dan Qian and the SparTechs Reign as Judges’ Favorite