From March 11 to 16, the Robotics team traveled to New York City to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition where they came out victorious, placing first in the tournament.
Grade 8 Science Teacher Chris Goff, who is an advisor to the Robotics team and travelled with them to the competition, explained that the competition attempts to emulate the feeling of a sporting competition to further encourage students to participate. “He [Engineer Dean Kamen] borrowed the dynamics of sports, so he turned robotics into a sporting event,” Goff said.
The competition is divided up so three student teams compete against three other teams at one time. Further into the competition, teams who rank in the top eight are able to choose the other two teams they would like to form alliances with.
This year, the challenge was for students to build a robot which could to stack boxes. Students receive the challenge six weeks ahead of the competition, providing a stressful time leading up to the tournament. “It’s really harsh for those six weeks. But, it’s also really amazing because they learn a lot of technical skills and they learn a lot about teamwork and project management and design principles,” Goff said.
At the same time, while students are building the robot, there is a sense of community within the team members. “It’s one of the few environments where freshmen through seniors interact in that way, so you have seniors helping sophomore with their mobile, it makes kind of a family feeling to the team,” Goff said.
A total of 35 students travelled to take part in the competition, including two students from Quintin Kynaston Community Academy (QK). Of those 35 students, four were part of the drive team who are working the robot during the matches. Students had to try out to be a part of the drive team, with roles including a driver, operator, human player and coach.
Other members of the team were mechanics dedicated to fixing the robot and students scouting other teams for strategic alliances to make. “Our win this year was a scouting win because we understood the game well and we knew what the other teams could do,” Goff said. “We ended up winning the finals because we made good alliances based on our scouting, and we made a good strategy that maximized our win. It was a full team win which was really cool.”
For the team, the competition itself began with a few glitches with their robot. This initially hurt their ranking. “We had some technical problems in the beginning, so we started off really poorly. Our wheel fell off in the first match and we had electrical connections come loose, and we had these constant problems in the first couple matches. At the end of the day we were ranked 26th,” Goff said.
However, the team fixed the complications with their robot, putting them in seventh place with the ability to choose the other two teams they would like to make an alliance with.
While the team did have a strong alliance, they were concerned about the other competitors. “The top two alliances were really strong alliances and I was not very hopeful that we were going to be able to make it through the semi-finals, but we came out number one in the semi-finals and we beat the number two alliance in the finals,” Goff said.
For Momo Steele (’16), who was part of the drive team, winning the tournament was “very exciting.” Steele was happy to be on the drive team because she felt like she was an active participant. “The competition wouldn’t have been as exciting for me if I wasn’t on the field because I was able to contribute to the outcome of the day and the outcome of the match. I was excited to do my role and see how it turned out, [but] every person’s role in the tournament is really important,” she said.
Steele, whose job was to supply the robot with equipment during the matches against other teams was extremely focused on her task during finals. “I wasn’t looking at what everyone else was doing. It was really exciting because the more boxes I put in the more I knew our score was going up,” Steele said.
Paola Kalb (’15), one of the captains of the Robotics team was also pleased with the outcome of the tournament. “I remember when we won and seeing the look of excitement on the freshmen’s face[s], it was really a prime moment,” she said.
For Kalb, being a leader on the team has made it “really rewarding to see all of the hard work that all of the other members have put in,” she said.
While Kalb is graduating this year, she hopes that the Robotics team will continue to grow and have a larger influence on the community. “This is a really good note work-wise to end on and I’m really proud of the effort that the team has put in to make such a good robot, but I hope we can make more of an impact on the community outside of ASL in future years,” she said.