New Middle School Robotics Team Places 6th in First Tech Challenge Regional Events

Two middle school students on the new robotics team at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School came in 6th place among 33 teams competing in First Tech Challenge events at Roanoke College on January 11 in Salem, VA. The team also placed 6th among 27 teams competing at Deep Run High School in Richmond on December 7, 2019. “We did extremely well for a first year rookie team,” said Marisha Fiden, mother of one of two 12-year-old seventh grade BSH students who organized and coached the team starting in September. “Most First Tech Challenge teams are from high schools.  We were one of the youngest, if not the youngest team.  Our robot performed perfectly.” Grant Howerton led the team in programming and also participated as a driver. Nicolai Fiden focused on building the robot and drove the robot for the win in all but one game. Wright Condrey, also a BSH student, started with the team but was unable to participate in the competitions. Needing a minimum of 3 players on a team, Simon Trinkies, an 11th grade EF exchange student from Germany hosted by the Fidens joined the team.

“First emphasizes ‘Gracious Professionalism’ ”, Mrs. Fiden said. “We could not have succeeded in our season without the gracious professionalism of our mentors FRC Team A.R.T 5546 Bradley Harker, Raleigh Norris, Philip Fiden and technology head and team coach Alex Salas at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School where we met every Monday after school and they shared their space, equipment, and knowledge.”

“Powhatan High School’s First Tech Challenge Team Spear 13804 loaned us a robot at a scrimmage we attended, which was so exciting because we thought we were there just to watch!” she said. “Mr. Robert Benway, the engineering teacher and team coach there, was incredibly helpful and invited us to come practice on their playing field and helped us modify our robot to pass with the judges. Their team is very good but we never competed against them.  The December tournament had two separate competitions at the same location and Powhatan High School students finished 5th.”

“We were lucky to have such a small team to start. We were able to learn a lot this season and are ready to take on next year with more participants to help not just with building, programming and driving, but also with documenting in a journal our daily efforts, and giving a presentation on how we do this, all of which will earn extra points for the team.  These two boys led the way and will continue this journey with a growing team,” Mrs. Fiden said.

BSH Head of School Paula Ledbetter said, “It’s very important for our students to have the opportunity to participate in Robotics and I am thrilled for our students who committed to launching the program this year. I’m very proud of them and I hope their success will inspire other students to become interested and to participate.”

The team’s sponsor, BSH Librarian Nancy Clendenon said, “We are incredibly proud of how this small but mighty team used the resources in our area for mentoring of new teams to start off strong and get the attention of other teams during their first season.  Even though our team members were among the youngest at the competitions we attended, they collaborated well with alliance partners from high schools and specialty centers, and they conducted themselves with the gracious professionalism that is at the heart of FTC robotics.”

“Robotics competitions require team members to do so much more than building, coding, and driving the robot. Our team confidently answered questions during judges’ interview sessions, networked with other teams at their tables to share their strengths and form alliances, and planned with partner teams to divide tasks to maximize the points they could earn each round. Robotics requires STEM skills, but also develops competency in public speaking, marketing and promotion, and visual presentation. As a rookie team, they grew in experience with all of this, and I look forward to seeing how the team continues to take on these tasks as they begin doing outreach to the Lower School and in the community,” Clendenon added.

The First Tech Challenge is designed for students in grades 7 to 12 to compete by designing, building, and programming a robot to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is Android-based, and it is programmed using Java, the Blocks programming interface, or other Android programming systems. Teams of students develop STEM skills with the guidance of volunteer coaches and mentors as they build robots based on innovative engineering principles. Awards are given for robot performance and teamwork as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

“The robot kit of parts is reusable from year to year and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programming. Rules must be followed to compete successfully in the sophisticated field game. Each season concludes with regional championship events. The robot game changes every season,” Fiden said.

The 2019-2020 FIRST Tech Challenge SKYSTONE rules of competition video