By Roger Walk
More than 1,500 high school students converged on VSU’s Siegel Center for a two-day high-energy and high-tech tournament and the selection of the teams that proceed to the national competition later this year.
More than 3,000 spectators turned out to cheer-on the contestants.
The event marked the 15th anniversary of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Virginia. This year, 64 teams from Virginia and eight eastern states participated in the Virginia region.
FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigor of science and technology. This year’s game was “Aerial Assist” that challenged robots designed and built by high school students to collect and toss two-foot diameter exercise balls through goals. Teams that played in alliance with robots that worked together earned extra points.
Robots in FRC can be five feet tall and weigh up to 120 pounds. They are designed, programmed and built from 350 distinct items from a kit of parts by teams of approximately 25 students plus their science and technology mentors during the six weeks preceding the competition.
“L.C. Bird Robohawks,” which won the 2009 NASA/VCU Regional Robotics Competition, this year won the Innovation in Control Award, but did not advance to the championship in St. Louis later this year. The L.C. Bird team includes students of the Virginia Governor’s Academy for Engineering Studies at Bird.
Overall results of the competition: After a high-tech tournament in Richmond that tested their teamwork and ingenuity, five Virginia high school teams and a team from Pennsylvania have won the right to compete at the FIRST World Robotics Championship in St Louis in late April.
A three-team alliance emerged victorious after more than 100 rounds of qualifying and elimination matches:
- Team “Sparky 384” from J.R. Tucker H.S. in Henrico County, winning its second trip in a row to the world Championship.
- “Builders of Tomorrow,” from Franklin City Schools in Franklin, Va., also winning a second trip in a row to the St. Louis contest.
- “Fighting Robo-Vikings,” from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa.
Three other teams also earned a place at the FIRST Championship for the quality of their performance on and off the competition field at the Virginia Regional:
- The “Mech Tech Dragons” from Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, – winner of the Virginia Regional Chairman's Award, FIRST’s most prestigious award, honoring the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, embodying the goals and mission of FIRST.
- “Talon 540 Godwin Robotics,” from Mills Godwin High School in Henrico County – winner of the Engineering Inspiration Award, celebrating outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school as well as their community. This team won the same award last year and is making its second trip in a row to St. Louis.
- “Team FeNix,” from Landstown High School Governor’s STEM Academy – named Rookie All Stars at the Virginia Regional.