By NIKHIL GRANDHI, senior
At the mention of the word “robotics,” images of metallic, cantankerous bodies of steel clashing with each other often occupy our imaginations. However, JP’s Robotics team, the WarHawks, engages in a much more practical application of robotics in the international For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program. This program challenges high school students by posing a problem that often requires knowledge of science and technology and problem-solving skills to formulate a solution that is practical and effective.
The WarHawks began their building season in January when FIRST Robotics officially released the problem and rules of the new game. This year’s game, titled Aerial Assist, can be interpreted as a robotic variation of handball. Team-built robots pick up and carry balls, approximately two feet in diameter, across the length of a field and shoot them into goals that are about seven feet high; robots can also pass the balls or shoot them over a truss for additional bonus points. In six intense weeks, the WarHawks’ electrical, mechanical, design, and programming sub-teams drafted and constructed a robot that managed to shoot the ball using a pneumatic system.
At the end of the build season, the WarHawks travelled to Mount Olive High School in Flanders, New Jersey to compete in the regional tournament. Thirty eight teams from various districts in New Jersey participated. Unlike most competitive events, FIRST competitions challenge the teams to construct robots that can compete and cooperate simultaneously. The competition fosters cooperation and coordination among teams by allowing the robots to compete in two opposing alliances, each made of three distinct teams. In between the matches, the WarHawks pit crew fixed up the robot and solved any problems to facilitate a smoother performance in the next match.
While the competition did unfold on an uneven playing field, mainly due to funding, support, and resource discrepancies, the WarHawks nevertheless managed to place 28th out of 38 competing teams, a significant improvement from prior competitions. Senior Nikki Huang said, “Our team really stood out this year. We were unique because our student members were independently working on the robot while other teams had adult mentors fixing their creations.” Despite being eliminated in the qualification rounds, the team gained invaluable knowledge.
Students who are part of the Robotics program learn much more than just the technical aspects involved in the field. With a focus on cooperation and teamwork, the competition fosters professional growth that not only allows members to engage in a fun and rewarding experience, but also sets them on the track for bright futures and successful careers. The members of the JP Stevens WarHawks hope to capture this spirit and integrate it into their preparation for future challenges.