Stratford High School had an impressive finish in the world's largest robotics competition
Stratford High School's Team Sparta Bots had an impressive finish in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, a competition with 620 teams from more than 40 countries, placing 16th as division runner-ups. There were more than 20,000 students participating in this event, making it the world's largest robotics competition, according to organizers.
In the competition, alliance teams are on a quest to breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower with boulders, and capture the opposing tower. Robots score points by breaching opponents’ defenses and scoring boulders through goals in the opposing tower. During the final seconds of the match, robots may surround and scale the opposing tower.
"They worked with industry leaders to refine their skills and create a robot that worked autonomously in the first seconds of the game. They had to design, build, and refine the robot to meet each challenge," said Jennifer Berry, Stratford Assistant Principal and team co-mentor.
As part of Team 4740, an alliance team of schools, the Sparta Bots were an impressive defensive force, persevering through every challenge in what some players called, "a war of attrition," as the team made it through several elimination matches. Their gracious professionalism was well-noted.
"I was most impressed with the team's persistence, creative problem solving, and positive attitude whenever we faced challenges. Inevitably, problems will arise after so many matches. They start to take a toll on the robot after awhile, especially when you are using your robot to ram into the other teams' robots trying to shoot," said Jennifer Hansen, Stratford AP Physics and Engineering teacher, who is also a co-mentor for the team.
"At one point, one of the left motors completely stopped working during a match but our driver was still able to maneuver it in a way that helped our team. They didn't have time to fix the problem before the next match so they just disconnected one of the right motors to even it out until they had time to solve the problem later that day. I saw a lot of other teams get frustrated and argue with each other when faced with problems like these, but our team was able to remain calm and work through any setbacks they faced," Berry said.
Stratford Academy of Science and Engineering senior Jonathan Smith's leadership of the robotics team started in his freshman year, as his prior building knowledge and skill were major assets right from the start.
Asked how his experience on the robotics team has affected him, Smith smiles. "I’ve learned a lot about designing and building under pressure from our partners and the experience. I hope that it continues [for other students] since most of our team are now seniors. There are a whole lot of things you’ll learn by working on things that you won’t learn by sitting in the classroom."
The team had many to thank for making it to the global competition: Ms. Bartley, Dr. Ufnar, Universal Robotics, David Peters, Wright Industries, Doug Alward, Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, Nissan, and Stratford PTSO.
"It was a humbling, exciting, and amazing experience!" Berry said in an email to the district.
Students began designing and building their robot in January when the game rules for this year were announced. They were allowed six weeks to build their robot.
"I've seen the students' confidence grow tremendously through this competition. The students have to work together with other teams to be successful so it forces them out of their comfort zones and makes them talk with students they've never met before about their robot," Hansen said. "The fact that they can point to the robot and show how they built it and explain why certain parts and features were used also gives them a huge sense of pride and rightfully so."