New England Tech is proud to support FIRST Robotics because it is so much more than robots.
Journal Staff Writer
WARWICK — Months of fundraising, planning and community events completed, Saturday was all about the robots.
Dozens of the metal-armed machines, middle and high school students at their controls, wheeled their way across the floor of the host New England Institute of Technology’s automotive center in an all-day competition as confusing to the uninitiated as the circuits that power the robots.
They scooped up rubber balls. They climbed obstacle-strewn ramps. Sometimes they flipped over.
And for the 10th straight year, a select few teams — Rhode Rage 1 from Aquidneck Island Robotics, the Westerly Bulldogs from Westerly High and North Robotics from North Kingstown High — earned a spot in the FIRST Tech Challenge’s regional finals in March against teams from up and down the East Coast.
“It is getting more challenging every year: more teams, more kids on each team and the games are different every year,” said Rick Powell, team mentor for North Kingstown High School’s three entrants in the FIRST Rhode Island Championship.
Over the last 20 years, school robotics has grown from a science class novelty to an educational phenomenon, with competitions in every state, teams in most school districts and students spending hours after school preparing for events.
And while engineering still lies at the heart of most robotics contests, the teams have become more than a refuge for tinkerers.
Within North Kingstown’s teams are building groups, software groups, design groups (for the logo) and “notebook” groups that record everything, Powell said.
The 33 teams that made it to the state finals Saturday — another 23 were eliminated in three preliminary rounds — represent 24 schools and extracurricular groups with different resources and robotics histories.