(April 11, 2014) Worcester County’s fledgling robotics team “wrecked” the competition again at the Chesapeake Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition in College Park last weekend.
With 16 members and less than a year of experience, Team Titanium-Wrecks took home the “Rookie Inspiration Award” for promoting respect and appreciation for of engineering at the contest. It also advanced to the final round of competition —“unheard of” for a novice team, mentor Paul Suplee said.
“The kids were just unbelievable,” he said. “That we made it into the finals was a little bit of a Cinderella story.”
Each year, FIRST Robotics reveals a new challenge for international teams, which have six weeks of intensive build-time to raise a robot worthy of competition.
This year’s “aerial assist” contest pitted two teams of robots against each other in a high-flying challenge where each side tries to throw a two-foot yoga ball into five-foot-high goals as many times as possible during a short match.
Each team has three robots, which can pass the ball, block the other team’s shots and score goals to earn points.
Members of Team T-Wrecks decided to build a defensive robot, meaning its primary goal is to block other teams’ shots rather than make them itself. “Buttercup,” as the machine is known thanks to some creative use of butter trays in the design, made it onto the third-place team’s alliance, advancing through the quarter- and semi-finals before losing in the second round of the finals.
At one point, a technological glitch almost cost them a “hot shot” — robotics slang for a 10-point goal — and the round, Suplee said.
“That was the tie breaker,” bumping the T-Wrecks’ alliance to a 122-112 win, Suplee said, and the crowd of around 3,000 “went nuts.”
Members of Team T-Wrecks already earned the title “Rookie All Star” two weeks ago at another regional FIRST competition, securing their spot at the FIRST global championships in St. Louis April 23-26.
“The kids voted on it and decided they didn’t want to win it twice in a row. They just wanted someone else to have a chance to make it to St. Louis,” so they did not compete for the same award last weekend, Suplee said.
With just two weeks to raise the money needed to send 14 students and eight adults to St. Louis, the team is in a full-on fundraising frenzy, he said. Of the $15,000 total needed for travel and registration, the team still needs $8,000.
T-Wrecks members will host a fundraiser at a local hardware store soon and are accepting donations through PayPal online. The Town of Berlin, Worcester County Economic Development and other civic organizations are pitching in, Suplee said.
“We’re going to make it happen. These kids have been working really hard,” he said.
To learn more about Team Titanium-Wrecks or make a donation online, visit www.team-t-wrecks.org.
Worcester County’s other stellar high school robotics team, the Beach Bots, also qualified for the FIRST championships in St. Louis during a regional match last month.