The young engineers of Team 195 from Southington High School have been gearing up for their upcoming season of robotics competitions, and they recently found out what their challenge will be.
FIRST robotics is a not-for-profit organization that aims to get students involved in STEM education by holding competitions that thousands of teams from across the world participate in. They kicked off their 2019 season with the announcement of this year’s game.
The topic is deep space, and the game involves “refueling” a space ship on a fictional planet. The robots will have to maneuver over different surfaces, perform tasks like picking up game pieces, and even use autonomous code during a “sandstorm” on the planet. Students must design and build their robot in six weeks, all while optimizing it for performance on the game floor.
Team 195 knows what their goal is, so what now?
Cyberknights senior Tyler Bade told us, “From day one, we grab the rulebook, we go through it, we write down everything we could possibly use towards our advantage. I’m psyched. I can’t wait. This is my senior year, it’s the year I’m taking charge on the scouting team, and it feels great.”
With 58 students all taking part in this, Team 195 is a huge, well-oiled machine.
“So, over the team, we have a bunch of sub-teams. We have our scouting sub-team, which creates a database of information on robots at the competition. We also have our build team, which is focused at one of our facilities at Mohawk Northeast.” Team Captain Mary Bilodeau told us.
These students are provided with some of the best technology around.
Jacob Drechsler, a senior on Team 195, told us, “we’re fortunate enough to be able to build a practice robot so that we can get our drivers practice while our other robot is protected and bagged up. We also have a drive team that is in charge of controlling the robot”
They’ve become a powerhouse, ranked third in the world last year. They’ll also be mentoring a new team from Danbury, getting them on their feet (or wheels), in their rookie season.
“They’ll be at our shop every week. We’re going to help them design and build their robot, just to get them started in their first year. Being one of the top teams, a lot of other people look to you for advice and help.” Gino and Sandra Brino are the head mentors, and they guide these students through some very complex engineering, from the planning stage to game day.
Sandra told us about how they preach good sportsmanship. “It’s a concept that FIRST calls ‘gracious professionalism’. So, even though they compete like crazy, they know it’s really about the learning. The competitions are really intense. You have mascots running around, people with painted faces screaming at these robots to do their thing.”
But it’s not just about dominating competitions, there’s a long-term benefit here.
“By the time they’re seniors, they’re ready for college.” Sandra told us.
Speaking of college, several alumni were at the kickoff to root on their former teammates. Jake Hayes, a freshman at Uconn, told us about his experience on the team. “It has put me light years ahead of my peers. The amount of knowledge that I’ve gained from this team and the experiences here has definitely benefited my future.”
Mr. Brino told us, “Local companies are now approaching us. They’re looking for internships and workforce and they’re coming to our team because they experienced some of our past members and alumni and they’re like ‘do you have anybody else out there’.”
Team 1-9-5 is already in the swing of things, and rightfully so. Their first competitions are coming up fast. In late March they have a district level competition at Western New England University, and if all goes well, we’ll be cheering them on in late April at the global championships in Detroit.