At White Castle, Flippy operates a grill and fryer station simultaneously. At Stop & Shop, Marty alerts to a spill on aisle four. And at Blair Academy, Charles places a cone atop a yellow junction, three-and-a-half feet in the air.
There is no doubt that groundbreaking robotic technology is pushing the boundaries in our everyday lives, and the Blair Robotics Team is hoping to do just that. After two competitions this year, the team currently ranks third out of 33 Northern New Jersey League teams in the First Tech Challenge (FTC). This weekend, they hosted a friendly meet in the CECIC forum with three top competitors from across the state to present their robot, learn what other schools are working on and build relationships with their counterparts.
“Outside of the physical competition, our robotics team consists of much more,” said Arthur Huang ’24. “Within all FTC Robotics teams is the ideology of gracious professionalism, the belief that through all events, courtesy and composure are paramount. All members of our robotics team practice gracious professionalism, from working with one another to working with other teams.”
The team really puts in the work. With 16 members, every student is assigned a specific role within the team, split into three categories: software, hardware and outreach. “All three fields work in unison–hardware builds the robot, software programs the code and outreach documents the progress and communicates with other teams,” Arthur explained.
Computer science teacher and robotics advisor Michael Garrant loves the teamwork and sportsmanship displayed at events like this past weekend. He enjoys the friendships students build across schools and the camaraderie that encapsulates the day.
“By the end of the day, teams were driving one another’s robots,” Mr. Garrant noted, laughing. “You don’t see that very often. The students really embody the idea of gracious professionalism.”
The Blair robotics team formed eight years ago, and last season was their most successful yet. After advancing to a spot in the state championship, the team finished fourth in New Jersey. This year, they are hoping for continued success.
What is the measurement of success? Each year, teams are prompted to build a robot to meet a required challenge as efficiently as possible. The problem is two-phased: an autonomous portion where the robot must complete a task and a physical portion when two drivers navigate through a field of obstacles. This year’s challenge, “Powerplay,” requires robots to place cones on tall towers, known as junctions, without a driver.
“After weeks of prototyping and engineering, we created a robot that can strafe in all directions, instead of just forward and backward. Our robot also has a slide arm with a rubber claw that allows it to comfortably grab cones and raise them,” Arthur described. “Additionally, it utilizes a camera to identify and scan different codes placed on the field.”
Next week the team heads to Ridgewood, NJ, for an official league meet with their robot, Charles, affectionately named after math teacher Stella Chen’s son. On January 23, the robotics team will host a FTC competition at Blair in the fieldhouse, where the year’s planning and efforts will ultimately be put to the test.
For more photos from the event, check out Blair's Photoshelter page.