The Madeira Robotics Team participated in its first competition at Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Virginia in early December. Over 40 middle and high schools participated in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge to design and build a robot.
Maria Lyons ’20 founded Madeira’s Robotics Club in early September and after recruiting additional team members, decided to enter the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). She was drawn to that challenge after seeing her younger brother start his own FIRST Tech team last year.
“I thought it would be about the right level of difficulty for a high school team without any experience,” said Lyons. “We did really well for a rookie team! At the end, we were ranked 18 out of 23 in our section, behind old pros such as TJ [Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology]. Next year, I’m looking forward to an even greater success.”
Creating a robot from scratch was only the beginning of the competition. Teams were also required to complete task based games. This year’s challenge game, Relic Recovery, uses a playing field where teams strategize, form alliances, and demonstrate gracious professionalism while finding “treasures” and returning them to their rightful place. Translation: the robot is tasked with locating items and transporting them to a designated location within the competition ring. Team robots are required to work autonomously, as well as with drivers, to score points using rotating and stationary goals.
Physically constructing the robot took more than nuts and bolts, Lyons commented.
“My favorite part of building the robot was probably the coding,” she said referring to the computer programming. “Although I enjoyed the physical engineering of the machine (and both aspects were wildly frustrating at times), I really began to enjoy the coding once I learned the ups and downs of Android Studio, which is FTC’s code platform. And of course, I loved learning to drive the robot and watching my team develop into adept engineers.”
The Robotics team continues to meet weekly to learn more about coding and engineering, while holding practice challenges to keep ready for their next competition.
Learn more about FIRST at www.firstinspires.org/