The Robotics Team Competes in World Championship
Daniel Fox, Victor Vassallo, and Benjamin Vastola
The T.C. Williams Robotics Team has been on a rocket ship to deep space this year, culminating in the team’s first ever trip to the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship in Detroit, Michigan from April 24-27. Senior and President of T.C. Robotics Leslie Lytle said, “It is an incredible environment to be in an arena with 400 robotics teams and thousands of people who are all so passionate about what they are doing.”
The FIRST Championship produces the largest gathering of STEM for students with tens of thousands students attending annually. Programs and activities are available to K-12 students that are directed towards robotics and the celebration of STEM.
Team 5587, Titan Robotics, is in its fifth year of existence and has grown immensely with a total of 74 registered members. Lytle said, “We started out with 15 students working at a makerspace in Crystal City. Now we have 70 students working at T.C. and every year our robots get better. Every year, we have also become more organized and have further expanded the work we do to promote STEM in Alexandria.”
T.C. Robotics hopes to build on this year’s success and prepare the future robotics teams. Junior Olivia Ernst said, “We have definitely expanded how much kids know about STEM, not just in T.C., but in Alexandria. Being able to start the new robotics teams in the elementary and middle schools, and hosting outreach and community events has been a big way that we have been able to open up people to the magic of STEM.”
For many on the team, the accomplishment of making it to the competition rewards all the hard work they put in and cements the team in T.C. history. Lytle said, “For me, this was an amazing way to end my senior year. I have been doing robotics since fifth grade, so to finally make it to worlds after so many years of hard work is incredible.”
However, the team was not always certain that they would move on to the global competition. As their District Championship came to an end the team was unsure whether they would advance to Worlds. At the end of the matches the team ranked in the 20s and need to be amongst the top 20 to automatically go through, but at the last second their luck changed. Junior and build lead Max Belmont said, “Then, when awards came around, we had not won any until they announced Engineering Inspiration Award, which is one of the highest awards that can be awarded in FIRST and guarantees admission to Worlds.”
One key to the success of the team has been the role of the mentors. Belmont said, “Our mentors help in our team by helping us work through problems. Their main role is not to help build the robot, but actually to help us figure out problems that arise in the building process.” The team’s leader also are significant to the team. “The leaders of the team help me by doing the things that I cannot. For example, I am good at building and designing, but I have no idea how to program or make electrical components work together” said Belmont.
Overall, the four day event was a positive experience that the team hopes to build on. Lytle said, “The other leaders of the team are all very skilled people with a lot of passion for what they do. Through Titan Robotics, I have gotten to meet so many T.C. students who I never would have met otherwise and who I am now really good friends with. Titan Robotics is truly a family and I am so excited to watch what the younger leaders on the team do next year and beyond.”