Nashoba Tech FIRST Robotics team prepares for battle
They have their assignment. Now it’s time to build a better robot.
Nashoba Valley Technical High School’s FIRST Robotics team has embarked on its second year of competition, fresh off winning the Rookie All-Star Award in last year’s regional competition in Boston and competing in the national FIRST Championship in St. Louis, Mo.
Students know, however, that it will be tougher this year to secure a spot in the nationals, and they’re working long hours, both after school and on weekends, to give themselves their best chance.
“We pretty much know what to do and how to present ourselves this year,” said Jessica Desmond of Chelmsford, who went to the nationals last year.
“We’re just trying to make sure our robot does what we want it to do,” said Justin Stewart, a senior from Chelmsford and another veteran of last year’s St. Louis trip.
What’s it supposed to do? Only shoot basketballs into four different hoops, set at various heights, from distances of 48 inches, 61 inches and 98 inches. In “Rebound Rumble,” Nashoba Tech’s team will be pitted against other regional teams to see whose robot can score the most baskets in a predetermined amount of time. Balls scored in higher hoops earn more points. Teams can also earn bonus points if their robots are balanced on a bridge at the end of the match.
Teams across the country received the challenge on Jan. 7, and since then, Nashoba Tech’s team has worked well into the evening most school days and has put in hours on Sundays to make sure their robot can shoot like Lebron James.
Robert Beaton, an Electronics & Robotics instructor at Nashoba Tech and the team’s adviser, said the team is ahead of where it was last year.
“We’re already improved in how well the kids are doing without even going near the competition,” Beaton said. “In one short year, we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year. There are a lot of different elements and a lot of problems that have to be overcome to reap the most rewards.”
Beaton credits the support of the Nashoba Tech administration, as well as the work of several Nashoba Tech staff members, including Engineering Technology instructor Jeffrey Scheminger, Programming & Web Development instructor Tony Dean and Science instructor Bill Toomey.
He also thanked Nashoba Tech’s FIRST Robotics sponsors, including NASA, PTC of Needham, Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems Division, Goodrich of Westford and Brooks Automation of Chelmsford.
Rick Nagle from Raytheon has been mentoring the team and helping the students design the robot.
“With Rick, the kids get an opportunity to work with a professional who’s in the industry, and he’s getting the kids to really think about careers in this industry,” Beaton said.
That is the ultimate goal of FIRST Robotics, a Manchester, N.H.-based organization founded by New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway and who started FIRST (“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) as a way to immerse high-school students in science and engineering and groom the next generation of scientists.
Nashoba Tech’s team will compete at the Agganis Arena in Boston on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24. The public is invited free of charge.