Gunston’s Robotics Team Competes in FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier

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The Gunston School Robotics Team competed in the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) qualifier at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) STEM Action Center in Columbia, Maryland on Sunday, February 3. The team finished the first phase of the competition with a record of 4 wins and 1 loss ranking 4th out of 23 teams, the best performance to date for a Gunston robotics team. This is the fifth year that Gunston has participated in the FTC program.

The team of seventeen students, mentored by Dr. Ken Wilson and led by FTC veterans Brynne Kneeland and Drew Seaman, designed, built, and programmed a robot to meet the challenges posed by this year’s game. They created an engineering notebook that described their strategy, proposed designs, and described problems that the team overcame along the way. At the competition, the students had to describe and defend their design in front of a panel of engineers. Real world engineering challenges like FTC teach students to follow the engineering processes that they will use in their future careers.

Front row L-R: Drew Seaman, Brynne Kneeland, Cedar Foster, Henry Shifrin, Will Newberg; back row L-R: Sebastian Borland, Josh Sanford, Daniel Ye, Robert Crow, Jimmy Zhao and Allen Wang.

The competition is divided into two parts: autonomous (the robot is controlled by a program) and driver controlled. This year the competition had a “Mars rover” theme. The robotic rovers start out hanging on to the side of a lander module. The rover must descend from the rover, sample minerals, drop a team marker into a depot, and park in a crater.

Gunston’s strong, consistent performance during the first phase allowed Kneeland, the team captain, to invite two other teams to form an alliance for the semi-final elimination rounds in the afternoon. She chose teams from Quince Orchard High School (Montgomery County Public Schools) and the Pasadena, Maryland Robotics organization. Although the alliance was eliminated during the semifinals, the team returned to Gunston proud of their effort and committed to improving their robot before the next tournament.

Gunston will compete again at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland on February 17.

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