FRC, FTC, FLL teams host joint 2021 Robotics Fair

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Ericka Jiang and Ella Shaham

The Upper Division’s FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) and FTC (First Tech Challenge) robotics teams and the Middle Division’s FLL (FIRST LEGO League) robotics club hosted a fair in the Lower Gym on Thursday, showcasing work they created over the past two years. 

The fair acted as an opportunity for club members to display all of their hard work and for the school community to recognize it, FTC Team Co-Captain Abigail Morse (12) said.

During the fair, students held discussions about the design of the robots and the purpose of every part of the robots. The FRC team showcased their robot, Roxanne, driving around, shooting balls upwards, and lifting itself up after clasping onto a hanging bar. Roxanne weighs 130 pounds and took 10 weeks to build, FRC Team Co-Captain Carmel Pe’er (12) said. To build the robot, the team relied on Fusion 360 and Inventor, which are computer aided design softwares, she said. In addition, one of the many FTC teams discussed and presented a robot that could drive, grasp objects, pull them around, and flip them over a short wall. 

Ashley Coburn (9) enjoyed watching Roxanne complete a pull-up, she said. As part of her python class, Coburn learned to use virtual sensors to make a virtual robot respond, and it was rewarding to see the same lessons from class in action.

The fair was “a prideful moment in a challenging year” for the teams, Computer Science teacher Sam Gruen said. 

Because the teams were unable to compete in live competitions as they have in past years, the fair is one of the teams’ few chances this year to exhibit their work, Pe’er said.

Robotics competitions often give out awards, such as the Connect Award, that celebrate outreach within the school’s community, Justin Burrell (11), a member of an FTC team, said. Burrell’s team always works towards that award, which is why they decided to participate in the robotics fair, he said. 

Burrell’s FTC team created a robot that can pick up rings and move them onto different platforms, as well as pull itself up to reach higher levels. Burrell also spoke during the fair about FTC and its value to our school, he said.

As an adviser to the teams, Gruen received support from the Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, Dean of Students Michael Dalo, Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein, and Director of Athletics, Health & Physical Education Robert Annunziata to garner excitement about the fair. 

The students’ energy while working on the fair was “unrivaled,” which was a highlight for Gruen, he said. “It’s really exciting just knowing I’m contributing to the growth of the robotics and computer science department at the school,” Burrell said.