By SUZANNE GALLIGHER, Contributor
Two Vandegrift ViperBot robotics teams — 6299 QuadX and 6209 Venom — competed at FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships in St. Louis recently, adding to the area’s growing reputation for excellence in STEM education.
A total of 128 teams from 16 countries — the top 2.5 percent of over 5,158 FTC robotics teams worldwide — took part in the four-day tournament that started Apr. 27.
At the worlds opening ceremony, Donald Bossi, president of FIRST, stated that every one was a champion just by making it to worlds.
Team 6299 QuadX captured the first place PTC Design Award for the second year in a row. The award is considered the FTC tournament’s top engineering award for industrial design at its best.
“It was an honor to win the PTC Design Award at Worlds for the second time,” said Eddie Bates, a QuadX senior and hardware lead, especially “after all the hard work and time I’ve put into CAD this year.”
“While I may be a little biased” said Linnea May, a QuadX junior and project manager of the team. “I certainly think our robot is the most well designed and elegant. However, to receive recognition of that at the World Championship is even more amazing.”
The award demonstrated the teenagers’ ingenuity with industrial design principles – striking a balance between form, function and aesthetics. Additionally, it demonstrated their respect and “Gracious Professionalism” toward everyone they encounter at an FTC event. “Gracious Professionalism” is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
QuadX is a three time veteran at the world championships. During the previous two years they have been division finalists, placing 3rd during the 2014 and 2015 season. This year they competed with the 4th seeded alliance in the Edison division during the semifinals in the simulated mountain rescue referred to as FIRST RES-Q.
That wasn’t the only award for ViperBots at the world championships, May and Ethan McCosky, a junior and part of 4546 Snakebyte, were honored at the dean’s list award ceremony, which recognizes top students for their leadership and dedication to FIRST. Both May and McCosky were selected by their mentors and recognized at the state championship. Only 10 finalists go on to become dean’s list winners at the world championships.
Meanwhile team 6209 Venom, another Vandegrift ViperBots team that earned advancement to worlds ahead of QuadX in the FTC South Super-Regional Championship Tournament earlier in the year by winning the Control Award for mastering robot intelligence through use of sensors and software, were newbies at the worldwide tournament.
“Meeting new teams, seeing faces from around the globe, interacting with new ideas and cultures and challenges you never thought possible — that’s what the FTC World Championship was for me,” said Brendan Hollaway a Venom senior and project manager. “All in all, only one word can describe it: epic.”
Team Venom faced an epic battle in their division with only nine qualification matches amongst the best of the best teams in the world to prove their mettle. There were some exciting moments in the simulated mountain rescue game as Venom’s robot performed a mountaintop hang to garner the coveted bonus points.
However, to advance to the semifinals and finals round, a team must be selected as an alliance partner by one of the top four teams. With 60 other teams in their division, it was stiff competition for that selection and Venom’s 2015-2016 robotics season ended after the qualification rounds.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Ryan Galligher, a Venom junior and hardware lead. “I can’t wait to go back!”
Robotics is about more than robots. The robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. This season team 6209 Venom used their marketing and fundraising skills to help the Housing Heroes project, an organization which works with at risk or homeless veterans to find short and long term housing. They raised more than $1000 in their “Not all Heroes Wear Capes” fundraising campaign for Housing Heroes and learned about compassion and social responsibility along the way.
Jenny Rosas contributed to this article.