By John R. Nieb
Qualifying for the national robotics championship in St. Louis, held this year from April 22–27, was a first for the Granby Robotics Club. When the club competed at the Pioneer Valley and Hartford Regionals, they finished in 11th place out of the 175 teams in the New England region, which qualified them to compete in the nationals.
The group spent the first three days competing in the competition and the last day seeing the city of St. Louis. The pits, competition, opening and closing ceremonies were held at the Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams and the America Center, which is a few blocks away from the Gateway Arch.
The team had won the Pioneer Valley Regional in Springfield and were semi-finalists at the Hartford Regionals, which qualified them for the New England Championship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They knew they had a chance to go to nationals, but had to be a high performing team at WPI. At the New England District, the points were tripled, and the top 30 teams in points moved on.
The Granby club made it to the quarterfinals at WPI, which cemented their qualification for the national championship. Other teams qualified for the championship by winning the Chairman’s Award at the regional level or by being an “All-Star Rookie Team.”
The championship is a culmination of the competitive robotics season for all levels of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program. The Granby Robotics Club competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition, the high school division. There were also championships for the FIRST Lego League and the FIRST Technology Challenge.
The FIRST Robotics Program allows people to spread the message of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, getting students interested in pursuing careers in those fields. “It is a great showcase and amazing to see so many talented students in one place,” said Jake Barrows, a freshman on the team.
Overall, there were eight divisions at the championship and the winners from each of the divisions then competed for the overall championship. In the Gallileo division, the Granby team won 21st place in the qualifying 76 teams. They were chosen to be part of an alliance that made it all the way to the finals for their division. As finalists, they received medals and a trophy. Granby team members said that they were grateful that Team 1690 Orbits from Israel selected them to be an alliance partner.
Recycle Rush was the theme of this year’s game. The materials used included recycling barrels, totes and pool noodles to represent litter and unprocessed trash.
Each group spent exactly six weeks building, designing, programming and testing their robots beforehand so they could ship them to St. Louis. The teams were given the same set of parts to begin, but they were allowed to add additional features up to a maximum of $4,000. The teams had to document the additional components, including the price for each part that was added over and above the starter kit.
In the competition, two three-team alliances competed. The teams were allowed to modify their robots during the competition, with a judge inspecting them before they could return to competition.
The main purpose of the game was to stack recycling totes on a scoring platform and top them with a recycling barrel. The teams earned extra points by putting a pool noodle in the barrel and by the human player who could throw the pool noodles onto other teams’ playing surface.
The teams also earned bonus points by cooperating with the opposing alliance to stack four special yellow totes in the middle of the scoring platform.
Twenty-five members of the Granby Robotics Club, which consisted of students and mentors, attended the championship in St. Louis.
More than 600 teams from all over the world competed. Teams from Simsbury, Enfield and Suffield also competed at nationals.
On April 26, club members visited Forest Park, a 1,300-acre park that was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. They also went to the St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri History Museum. On their way to the Arch, they visited the Old Court House in downtown St. Louis which was the site of the Dred Scott decision. They ended the day by taking the pod to the top of the Arch for a view of the Mississippi River and St. Louis.
“Overall, it was a really fun trip and the team did really well. We are glad we went and we hope to go again in future years,” said freshman Kathryn Karabetsos. “It was so interesting to see all the different designs other teams used for their robots and how they approached the competition.”
Granby Grunts: Pictured are, front row (from l.); Caron Kempf, Josh Cote, Josh Samplatsky, Tina Williams, Kate Karabetsos, Kat Boit, Sydney Cote, Cam Downs, Andrew Jennings, Spencer Howes, Vince Lucca, Scott Boynton, Tim Bradley and Margaret Bastiaanse; back row: Aaron Beal, Aidan Griswold, Jake Barrows, Matt Bradley, Nickolai Serebriakov, Ben Hebert, Ben Yoder, Darren Samplatsky, Zach Winslow and Don Rethke.