Published: 2/23/2022 1:39:10 PM
Modified: 2/23/2022 1:38:48 PM
Great Brook School’s robotics club finished third in the skills competition at the state championships Feb. 20, according to Rick Mellin, president of CFM Technologies in Peterborough and team leader, calling it an exciting sign for the future of the program.
The club was formed only about a year ago, and the team – named “The Awesome Potatoes” by its members – is made up of a group of middle-schoolers who designed their own robot and brought it to their first competition in mid. -February.
The team of Mallory Mason, Fiona McKinney, Jayla Syrotchen, Gwyneth Moritz and Quinn Lake placed well at their first competition the weekend before the state championship, which is what allowed them to be invited to states. They spent the intervening week working on the robot.
“They decided there were some improvements they could make,” he said. “They came back with a better robot.”
The competition followed the rules of the VEX IQ Challenge, one of the national and international competitions put on by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. This year’s format, called “Pitching In,” involved the students using their robots – built with VEX technology – to collect balls and sort them into goals on a 6- by 8-foot field. Points could be scored by pushing the balls into lower goals, launching them into a higher goal and clearing all balls from their starting position.
The competition included 60-second matches in different formats – one in which two teams from different schools worked together to score as many points as possible, one in which a single team controlled the robot to score as many points as possible and one where students tested their programming skills by having the robot attempt the challenge autonomously.
The Awesome Potatoes came in third out of 22 teams for skills demonstrated in the latter two competition styles. Mellin said that while the team did not place in the teamwork rankings, he felt that their high-ranked performance in the skills area of the competition was impressive enough.
“With one robot on the field, they scored more than they had with two,” he said.
Most impressive, Mellin said, was the timing. Since the club is very new and many members did not join until the fall, the time spent working on the robot was much less than some other schools that were able to send many teams.
“It’s more than crazy. I mean, it’s really amazing, ”he said. “We started from scratch and still put together a simple robot that worked well, scored points, that we could program. It was just cool. ”
The state championship was fun for the students, Mellin said, and provided a good space for them to showcase their skills.
“They were very excited. They had a great time; they made a lot of friends, ”he said.
The team has been invited to the world championships in Texas in April. Mellin said he was unsure whether the team would be able to go, due to cost and other considerations, but in and of itself it was encouraging.
“It’s very impressive,” he said. “This is what kids can do given the opportunity.”
In the meantime, he said that he is looking ahead. The next competition won’t be announced until April or May, and in between, he hopes to help bring some latecomers to the club up to speed.
“I think we’re going to focus on just learning some skills,” he said. “We’re going to learn what’s there, and make some more fun kind of robots.”
And he said there are no concerns about keeping the students interested.
“They’re all excited about next year already,” he said.