Students shine at FIRST contest

Ruth Mariano, March 07. 2013 3:18PM
The “Oz-Ram” team is shown here with their robot just before a round of competition. From left are William-Andrew Lalancette, Chase St. Laurent and Joe Norris. (Ruth Mariano Photo)
Teams from as far away as Canada, Vermont, and Rhode Island participated last weekend in the annual BAE Regional FIRST Robotics event held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

John Stark and Hopkinton High Schools have once again joined forces as “Oz-Ram Robotics,” a high-powered team that has already gone to the world championship and won the rookie all star award in their first year when they had begun their Wizard of Oz theme, referring on their website to their “FIRST journey up the Yellow Brook Road.”

Since that season, the team has learned from their prior challenges and has created the “Tin Man VIII,” a “small and agile robot” that is perfect for this year’s theme, the “Ultimate Ascent,” which provided high school students with a vast array of engineering, mechanical, and technological challenges. In six short weeks, they designed, built, and programmed a robot to meet the specific parameters of the FIRST competition.

The competition, which took place on a 27-by-54-foot field, had goals at each end of the field and one pyramid structure placed on each side of the field. The matches each began with a 15-second “autonomous period” when the robots – without any human assistance – would throw Frisbee-like flying disks into the end goals, which was followed by a 2-minute match where the robots were manually controlled by the students. The robots’ objective was to throw as many disks as possible into the end goals. The higher and smaller the goal, the more points were awarded.

During the competition, teammates would feed additional disks into the robot at slots placed at their end of the field. The robots’ second objective was to climb the pyramid structure. The higher they climbed, the more points they received. During the last several seconds, human team members could attempt to manually throw the disks into the far goals.

“It’s all about the robot,” said team mentor Jeff Beltramo. In fact, as three team members positioned the Tin Man on the field in the quarter final competitions, each gave him a hug for good luck.

Although the Tin Man was fast and maneuverable, they unfortunately did not make it into the semi-finals. “We had troubles with defense,” said Beltramo, with other teams pushing the Tin Man out of the way. By focusing on their speed and agility, however, they could be proud of the Tin Man’s performance with high shots with commendable accuracy. Now, they have their sights on St. Louis where the world championships will be held.

Before preparing for the next event, however, the team listened as FIRST founder Dean Kamen and Gov. Maggie Hassan spoke to those assembled, impressing upon them the importance of STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Students in these areas are the ones “developing skills with real world applications that help our economy,” said Hassan, “that make our lives better.”

“New Hampshire’s colleges and universities want to double the number of STEM graduates by 2025,” said Hassan. “We’ve asked the community colleges and university system to freeze their tuition for the next two years,” she said, in an effort to make higher education attainable for all.

Human InterestHopkintonWeare

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