BURRILLVILLE — For the sixth consecutive year, the Burrillville High School robotics team has won the state robotics championship and will compete against teams from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the FIRST Tech Challenge World Robotics Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, in April.
Known as Team 154 Renegade, the Burrillville students were among 200 high school students from around the state who competed in the fourth annual FIRST Tech Challenge Feb. 4 at the New England Institute of Technology.
The Burrillville team's first place finish (the team has placed first in the state event six years in a row) guaranteed it a place in the international competition at the Edward Jones Dome, America's Center, in St. Louis April 25-28. About 100 teams — out of 1,100 from around the country — are invited to St. Louis.
The Burrillville team this year includes Devyn Fonaine (robot driver); Lincoln Follett (robot operator); Kathleen Kay (rules expert); Ian Goulet (programmer); Britton Laney (builder); Nate Varieur (builder); Brian Geary (Builder); Rheanna Wojciechowski (public relations); and Ben Brooks (builder).
“Believe it or not, this year actually makes the sixth consecutive state championship the team has won,” said Andrew Aldrich, the team's faculty advisor and coach.
“No other team in Rhode Island has accomplished this feat.”
During the state competition, Burrillville and two teams from Mt. Hope High School in Bristol earned the right to go to the FIRST Tech Challenge world championships. In the final match, Mt. Hope High School formed an alliance with Burrillville to defeat a team comprising Aquidneck Island Robotics 4-H Club in Newport and Toll Gate High School in Warwick.
More than 30 teams from across Rhode Island turned out at the state division event. Two teams at a time competed against each other in a 12x12-foot challenge course. Inside the course, racquetballs, bowling balls and stackable crates awaited each team’s robot, where both driver-controlled and computer-controlled challenges would test the results of the students’ engineering, ingenuity and strategy.
In addition to advancing to the world championship, the Burrillville team also won the PTC Design award, which is given to a team that best incorporates industrial designs into their robots.
“We have a great time and we're looking forward to April,” said Aldrich. “The designing and building of this year's robot helped students implement concepts of engineering and physics beyond those they have learned in the classroom. Technology education is one of the core values of our team.”
Like previous years, the Burrillville team’s robot was built with grant funds provided by Raytheon Company's Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), which assisting the students as team mentors.
This is the team’s sixth trip to the world championship in their six-year existence. The team is a division of the Northern Rhode Island Robotics Collaborative, which is based in Burrillville, but is open to anyone in the Northern Rhode Island region.
The Burrillville team has never won the world championship, but has consistently placed in the top 20 each year. But this year could be different.
“We have an amazing team this year, and an amazing robot,” Aldrich said. “The students designed a robot that could pick up four baskets, put a ball in each basket, and then lift the baskets five feet into the air, which is where the major points were scored in this year's game.”
“Looking ahead towards the international championship, we are hoping to do better than our second place in the world finish from two years ago,” he added.
However, he said, funding to pay the expenses for the team to travel to St. Louis is a major issue. The team is accepting donations to raise the $6,000 needed to get the team to the competition.
Anyone who is interested in donating to or sponsoring the team can email Aldrich at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“We are a non-profit organization so all donations are tax deductible,” he said. “We also are very thankful to our sponsor Raytheon for their involvement with our team, and getting us to where we are today.”
FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The organization is supported by a network of over 3,000 corporations, educational and professional institutions and individuals.
The FIRST Robotics competition connects students with professional mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions.
More than 1,500 teams - over 37,000 high school students from around the world - are expected to complete in next month's international competition.
Robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST, and weigh up to 120 pounds. The kits include motors, batteries, a control system, and a mix of automation components. During the competitions, the robots race around an oval track knocking down 40” inflated trackballs and moving them around the track, passing them either over or under a 6'6” overpass. Extra points are scored by robots positioning the trackballs back on the overpass before the end of the 2 minute and 15 second match.