Syborgs to advance in FIRST competitions
Competitions are underway for Suffern High School’s Robotics Team, the Suffern Syborgs, which returned from a strong showing at the New Jersey Fall Harvest FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Qualifier in Marlton.
This year, Suffern High School has fielded four teams with six members each.
Team 3950 finished after a tension-filled battle in the third round of a best of three semi-finals match and was among three finalists for the PTC (Parametric Technology Corporation) Design Award.
“Being named one of three finalists is a big deal,” said mathematics and engineering teacher and team advisor George Mugno. “A lot of the team’s success has to do with the engineering notebook.”
To be considered for the award, a team must submit an engineering notebook which contains detailed robot design drawings and evidence of a well-considered basis for its design. The robot itself must differentiate itself from others with a design that is both aesthetic and functional.
Post-competition reflection on what worked—and what didn’t—is a crucial part of the engineering design process. With just two weeks between competitions, the pressure is on for teams to work quickly to improve their designs.
Despite a strong showing, Team 3950 will be working long hours over the coming days on a list of modifications to enhance its robot’s speed and performance in time for the next competition on December 2 in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Although frustrated by a malfunctioning motor, Team 5989 reported success in mounting an effective defense which prevented competitors from scoring. Members are focused on repairing the motor and restoring their robot to full function in time to compete. For Team 3951, cleaning up wiring is near the top of the to-do list. Team 5988 was disappointed with the performance of their design, but is tearing down their entire robot and has to rebuild before December 2.
For the 24 team members, robotics isn’t just an extracurricular activity—it’s a way to pursue a passion for science, technology, engineering and/or math.
“Many join the team because they were hooked by something in an engineering course. We’ve also got kids who’re taking engineering courses because of their exposure through the robotics team. The team is definitely making the connections for these kids,” reported Mugno. “They are constantly wrestling with the trade-offs inherent in engineering and physics: ‘You can’t get something for nothing.’ In mechanical advantage, if you want more speed, you’re going to have to give up force. If you want more force, you’re going to take longer to get there. Math is how they ‘see’ this on paper.”