By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – With faces painted blue and gold, wearing striped socks and gold capes, the Assabet Valley robotics team, the AZTECHS 157, gave it their all at two recent events of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions, the Southeast event in Bridgewater, and the Rhode Island event held at Bryant University. In each case, the robot, also sporting the traditional blue and gold colors, performed admirably, functioning as expected to meet the demands of this year’s challenge, and made it to the quarterfinal rounds of play.
“We were pleased with the design the students had chosen and felt comfortable that the six weeks of hard work were going to pay off in the competition, but there also is an element of luck involved in each match, and sometimes luck doesn’t smile on your team! There were a lot of powerhouse teams at each event, so no matter how well prepared we felt, the outcome was never a given,” explained Marcus Fletcher, lead mentor on the AZTECHS.
FIRST Robotics was conceived by inventor Dean Kamen, most notably of Segway fame, as a vehicle to get high school students to forego rock stars and athletes as their heroes in favor of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Assabet has been involved from the inception of FIRST in 1992 and has brought home numerous awards and championships. The team depends on sponsorships and donations from local companies who also value the STEM educational component of this program to sustain itself. This year the team was sponsored by Boston Scientific, Solidworks, Avidia Bank, Entwistle, Raytheon, Tierpoint, Tsitouch, 3DSDP, Staples, 3D Solutech, Harry Williams, Dougsbigtoolbox.com, Advantage Truck Leasing, Central Mass Powder Coating, St. Mary’s Credit Union, Pepsi Cola Bottling of Worcester, Keurig and Wegmans.
The premise of the program is for high school students and their mentors, often from local firms, to conceptualize, design, build, and program a 120-pound remote-controlled robot that can meet the challenges of the current year’s game.
“This program was designed to basically mirror a real-world engineering scenario,” explained mentor Kristine Fletcher. “With that in mind, we understand and stress to the students that the competition itself is just for fun, but that the real goal is to solve the problem within the time frame and produce a robot that meets the challenges of the current game…It’s learning about problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, quality workmanship, and effective communication among team members. Having fun, cheering, dancing in the stands, and traveling with a team are the bonuses.”
For more on FIRST, see www.firstinspires.org