Hollis Brookline robotics team wins FIRST award

Hollis Brookline High School students were among hundreds participating in the 2013 BAE Systems Granite State Regional FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – Robotics Competition, held at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena from Feb. 28-March 2.

Among the participants from the school’s robotics team, “The Force Team,” were many of the 70 student members and 16 mentors – typically teachers, engineers and scientists at local companies. The Force Team, launched in 2003, is sponsored by BAE Systems/Technology Garden and Hollis Brookline High School. The BAE firm has been the primary sponsor of the event since its inception 11 years ago.

The team’s website, www.theforceteam.com, notes that participation in robotics gives team members a chance to replicate many aspects of real-world corporate procedures. The team, composed of students from grades 9-12, has two CEOs and various vice presidents for subgroups that include electrical, mechanical, integration, business, software and strategy. A presence in the community at local events enables a wide range of activities.

Force Team 1073, armed with a robot resembling a wicked-cool spacecraft, faced off in qualification rounds against nearly 50 other teams in a challenge that drew together students from Canada, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. All the teams were composed mostly of young men and women whose interests in science and technology motivate them to spend untold hours pursuing the rigors that culminate in a presence at the competition.

The challenge for all the teams present, performing under loud rounds of applause from thousands in the audience, was to design and build, beforehand, and operate on the day of the event, a remotely machine that would fling, shoot, launch or otherwise propel a multitude of large round discs through four goal boxes of differing heights and locations. Points were awarded and teams later formed alliances to better maneuver their robots so the machines would climb one of two tall metal pyramids in center field.

Mentor Sue Hay said Team 1073 had “an amazing time” at the event. The team worked hard on getting its robot ready to compete, and team members had lots of fun talking to visitors in the pits.

“We had our 3-D printer in the pits, demonstrating the cool technology that allows us to quickly create mounting brackets and other parts for our robots,” Hay said.

The students on the Hollis Brookline team were intent on not only participating in competition but in learning the most they can about the intricacies of the science behind robotics. There are dozens of aspects involved, fields of application ranging from software design, computer programing and operation, construction of the robots, wiring, lighting, and ensuring that every gear, lever and motor is ready to go on competition day.

The Force Team finished with a respectable showing, 33 out of 45. In addition, the team won the prestigious Judges’ Award, an honor bestowed upon a single team in recognition of a team’s unique efforts, performances or dynamics.

Hay said the team was very proud of the award. It reflected the team’s attitude in sharing developments such as robot code, 3-D printer files and tablet applications, using a communication structure during competition that allowed all team members to be involved and quickly informed. Text messages among the members detailed in quick order the robot’s status. The technology is a part of FIRST’s goals of striving for an understanding of the latest methods in engineering and robot science.

“We are very proud to have won this award and are excited to compete at our next regional in Lewiston, Maine, on April 4-6,” Hay added.

The dream of every team that day was to continue up the ladder of regionals and secure a spot at the FIRST Championship held April 24-27 in St. Louis, Mo. No doubt, The Force Team will continue to be a formidable force.

A results, participating teams and award recipients can be found at www.bae.com.

For more details on the FIRST competition and information on participating or volunteering at future events, visit www.usfirst.org.