BY JOE MARVILLI
Five teams from Francis Lewis High School competed in the NYC FIRST Tech Challenge Championship Tournament, which took place this past Saturday at NYU-Poly in Brooklyn.
Francis Lewis is the only school to have five teams competing in the Regional Championship Tournament. The Mecha Knights, The Super Troublemakers, Tetricons, Anonymous Autonomous and Titanium Tigers all made the qualifier. Titanium Tigers rose above the competition to make the top eight, advancing to the Eastern Super-Regional Championship on April 3-5 in York, PA.
More than 200 teams competed in the qualifier round for a spot in the regionals, with 40 groups advancing.
The FIRST Tech Challenge is for students between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. Teams of up to 10 students design, build and program their robots to compete in a game of skill and strategy against other teams. The FIRST Tech Challenge robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and uses a variety of programming languages. The teams put together strategies and build their robots based on sound engineering principles. The robots are put in challenges that test their programming and maneuverability, between September and April.
Francis Lewis’ achievement is a rarity. No other school in the regional competition has had five teams qualify, according to the regional director of NYC FIRST, Pat Daly. She said the strength and integration of the school’s robotics programs gave the students an advantage, as did their maturity.
“They are very disciplined. I was surprised there were so many, but not that surprised,” she said. “You have to beg [the students] to leave the school because they love what they’re doing.”
Titanium Tigers is also a unique group at Francis Lewis, as it is an all-girl team. The team formed in the previous school year and currently has nine members. The students and their coach, Marlon Anuran, were excited that the Tigers were advancing to the next round.
“This season has been a phenomenal one for our team. We are the only high school in New York City that had five schools competing. I’m very proud of that accomplishment,” Anuran said. “Robotics is all we do. They will spend long hours, until 7:30, 8 at night, fixing their robots and trying to program. It’s not just about the robots. The program itself is about building character.”
One of the biggest challenges in creating a working robot is the programming. Aysha Qureshi, the team’s programmer, said that she had to reach a consensus with her teammates for the robot’s design and programming to match up.
“Overall, the challenge was coming up with the robot design,” she said. “You learn more as you go along.”
While their robot remained relatively the same between the qualifier and the regional competition, the team said it plans to put in extra effort and tweak it into top form for the next round.
The Super-Regional winner will move on to the World Championship, taking place in St. Louis on April 23 to 26. That round will feature teams from other countries as well.
While Francis Lewis has fully embraced the FIRST program, its values are not just in teaching the students robotics. According to Daly, it gives them a whole range of skills that they build up as they work together.
“The robot is a catalyst for more. It teaches them problem solving, it teaches them team-building skills. They learn amazing science and technology skills,” she said. “I’ve had kids tells me how it’s changed their lives. Watching a kid have a robot move for the first time and meet one of these challenges is amazing.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.