Over 50,000 students world wide will participate in the First Robotics Competition this year, and forty five teams are based here in Connecticut. WNPR's J Holt brings us the story of one of those teams.
In early January, teams of students gathered in high school auditoriums nationwide, for the kick off of an annual competition geared toward engaging young people with science and technology.
MC- "So who's excited for the 2013 game?"
Back for their third year participating in the First Robotics Competition, or FRC, the members of the Mercy High School Tech Tigers were among more than 1500 Connecticut students at Farmington High School, listening to this year's rules. They'd have six weeks to build a robot that must be remotely controlled over a wifi network, and able to deliver flying discs and climb a pyramid in order to score points.
MC "Alright, to get started we're going to talk about kit and parts. So make sure you have two representatives from your team, one of whom must be an adult…"
While some of the newer Tech Tigers went off to pick up their standard kit of parts and get acquainted with the materials, the returning members retreated to a classroom and wasted no time digging into the details .
Student- "Guys! One person at a time!…"
There are 25 Tech Tigers, and they're currently the only all girls robotics team in the state. Like all teams, they're supported by a group of mentors, some of whom are faculty or parents at Mercy, and some are local engineering and technical professionals. But in the end it is the student's robot, and over the course of the build they all take on a lot of challenges. Not the least of which is
Juliann Marino- "Excruciating teamwork."
That's third year team member Juliann Marino.
Juliann Marino- "You may not be able to look at the robot and see that because all you're seeing is the mechanical part, but you have to see the people that go into this."
Serving as this year's team captain has helped her see that very clearly, but over the years she's seen a lot more value in the program.
Juliann Marino- "I'm not very good with math and science… I'm better at english music and history, and those have nothing to do with robotics. And I've found it really helps you, because you now have real world application… At the end of the day, you can look at a piece of paper and say 'this was my design, here it is now. This is what I did. It's something you're proud of."
After six weeks of designing, building, programming, and testing, The Mercy tech tigers all have something to be proud of. (Sounds of cheering, as the robot is packed up after testing is complete.) They finished their robot with hours to spare.
Student- "Anybody take a picture of the clock?"
Most Connecticut teams will attend the regional competition in Hartford on March 28th & 29th. Mercy, a catholic high school, will attend the regional competition in Worchester Massachusetts this weekend, so it won't interfere with Easter. The top five teams from each regional will progress to the national championships in St. Louis, in April.