By Jano Tantongco
Huntington Robotics team members at the world championship robotics challenge held in St. Louis, Missouri. Team captain Jacob Strieb is in the center, with John Riley on the right, with vice captain Cole Blackburn in the rear right.
The three-year-old Huntington Robotics team participated in the For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology robotics competition at The Dome at America’s Center stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, from April 27-30.
The team, composed of 38 students from Huntington High School, was one of six regional winners in FIRST’s New York City championship that took place on March 12 and 13 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. These winners got to participate in the world championship.
“We’re extremely proud of how we did, especially considering we were a third-year-team,” said head coach Brian Reynolds. “What's great about this competition is that everybody helps each other. We had about five different teams trying to work out a bug that we had with the program.”
Each year, FIRST offers a new kind of challenge for their championships. For this year’s Stronghold challenge, teams were tasked with the goal of breaking through their opponent’s defenses to throw “boulders” into their castle towers and scale those towers for additional points.
Vice captain, Cole Blackburn, noted that he’s been with the team since it was created three years ago. Before he joined, he said he had no experience in electronics, let alone robotics.
“As vice captain, I’m in charge of running a lot of the meetings, but I came from the electrical side of the team. I like a lot of the hardware on the robot and figuring how everything works,” he said.
Now, he said he plans to pursue electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Blackburn added that in the Huntington Union Free Schools District’s proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year, they recently allocated $20,000 last month to help fund the team.
Reynolds noted that running the team’s budget has amounted to roughly $30-35,000 each year. He said that robotics acts as a vehicle to teach students not only about math and science, but also about marketing, social media, making presentations, videography and design.
“We have some kids on the team... their parents have sent me emails telling how the program has changed their kid’s life,” he said. “I don't know what it is about the program, but it's a lot more than just a piece of metal with motors on it.”
The FIRST challenge was announced on Jan. 9. Teams are given six weeks to design a robot that they believe can complete the challenge’s tasks and defeat the opposing team. Once the six weeks are over, teams must bag and seal their robots to prevent working on it further.
Reynolds said one take away his team learned from the experience is that the best teams of the competition built their first robot as an “alpha” model, then they constructed another “beta” model to continue working on it and practicing until the competition date.
He added that this costs more, but now with the added influx of funding from the district, the team will seek to build a beta model in next year’s competition.