Robotics Ready for World Championships

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Stuyvesant’s three robotics teams have been working hard this year. Through their efforts, Stuyvesant’s award-winning teams have performed exceptionally well, ranking high at numerous competitions. Two of the teams—694 and 310—are going to the world championships in Detroit.

Stuyvesant has three robotics teams that all compete in competitions run by the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) organization. FIRST’s goal is to get students interested in science and technology, and one way it fulfills that is by creating competitions for students to compete in. Stuyvesant has one FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, team 694, as well as two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams, team 310 and team 479. The FRC team is larger and has a six-week robot-building season, while the FTC teams are smaller and develop several robots in a season.

Teams 310 and 479 competed at Townsend Harris High School in the New York City Regional competition. Team 479 placed 10th out of 24 teams and won the Inspire Award at the NYC Regional. Though it did not make it to the world championship this year, it is looking forward to competing for more in the future. “If we ever get lucky enough, we might win the world [championship] but we are really looking forward to [making] history for Stuy FTC,” freshman Steven Wen said in an e-mail interview.

However, team 310 won first place for the Connect Award and third place for the Inspire Award out of 24 teams, qualifying it for world championship for the first time ever. “For 310, it’s like a big thing for us to go to worlds this year, because it’s our first time actually going to worlds, and I feel like our team is trying hard to represent Stuyvesant in the whole world championships, so we hope we win,” senior Joe Suzuki said.

Over the past season, team 310 faced many obstacles. Many of the seniors who led the team left this year, leaving behind a less experienced crew. In addition, all of the members of team 479 graduated last year, so, to reform team 479, team 310 had to be split apart. Despite this, the members of the team were able to work together to form a cooperative and close-knit crew. “We faced many challenges because when we split, we didn't have any members [who] could do electronics, etc., so it was a real learning experience,” sophomore and Vice President Megan Gupta-She said in an e-mail interview. “I am really proud of my team this year because everyone stepped up and we were able to form a really coherent team.”

Outreach, such as mentoring, also helped team 310 qualify for the world championship. “A part of our competition is outreach and documentation, and that is definitely something we stepped up this year. Personally, I organized all the outreach events this season, which [led] us to win the Connect Award at the NYC Regional and qualifying competitions,” Gupta-She said. “We've organized and attended many STEM lectures, held demonstrations at other schools, [mentored] FLL teams, and attended CyberStuy, FTCSplash, and StuySplash,” freshman Emily Tan said in an e-mail interview.

They also continuously made improvements to their robots throughout the preceding months. At each competition, members looked over issues in performance and improved them. “After every single competition we've changed our robot design because we see what didn't work during our competition, we see what other teams succeeded in doing, and we discuss which mechanisms we want to change/replace in the meeting after [the competition],” Tan said.

Team 310 hopes to improve by meeting other teams at the world championship. “Worlds will be an amazing opportunity for everyone to learn more from other successful teams. I am really excited to meet other teams and learn more about how they structure their team and build season,” Gupta-She said.

Meanwhile, team 694 qualified for the world championship in two separate events. From March 6 to March 9, it competed at the New York Tech Valley Regional competition, where it placed third out of 36 teams. The following week, it competed at the Central New York Regional competition, where it placed second out of 31 teams.

In addition to these achievements, Team 694 also received separate awards. At the New York Tech Valley Regional competition, it won the Entrepreneurship Award, which is awarded to teams that display strong business skills to maintain a self-sustaining team. Their mentor, Shelley Grant, also won the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award that recognizes individuals who have motivated teams through communications.

Team 694 competed with a robot named Alfred, which can pick up and throw disks and balls. “It has a lift that goes about 10 feet in the air. It starts at four feet, goes about 10 feet in the air, and it can bring a ball or a plastic disk, like a foot in diameter, up in the air, and scores in various places,” robotics mentor Joseph Blay said. One of Alfred’s special features is a suction cup that allows it to climb onto a podium while another robot is there. “There is really only space for one other robot, so they came up with a suction cup that allows them to go up that high, but not take up a lot of space, so two robots can fit,” Blay said.

A common strength seen in all three teams when preparing for competitions was teamwork. “You have these 120-pound machines and they’re just blasting each other, and parts break, and [the crew members] just did a really good job working together when that happened, not panicking, not freaking out,” Blay said.

Aside from working with each other, another highlight of the competitions was seeing what other teams had made. “A lot of these schools are not technical high schools and they’re all motivated there because they’re interested in engineering or their passion about learning,” senior John Lu said. “It’s like a community.”

At the world championships, which will be held in Detroit in late April, teams 694 and 310 hope to “win, learn a lot, [and] make new friends,” Blay said. Students are also excited to see some of the best robotics teams in the world in action, and to compete with them. “As [a] driver, I’m looking forward to drive with the best teams and compete with teams like Gluten Free and BrainSTEM,” senior Arazit Pal said. “It’s gonna be amazing to just see these people live [...] [and] in person, not just behind the screen.”

Blay looked back on his experience when he went to world championships. “I was a student on the team, and the first time I went I had the best time ever; I got to make a bunch of friends from all over the world [...],” Blay said. “You just get to meet a lot of cool people and learn a lot of stuff.”