D-E Robotics, which officially goes by the name of Team 0207 Critical Mass, achieved several new and notable accomplishments in their 2016-2017 competitive season, which began in September and concluded this spring.
In February, the team traveled to Vermont for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Vermont State Championship, where they placed 4th out of 32 teams in the qualification matches, moving on to the final round. After forming an alliance with two other teams, Critical Mass and their alliance partners won the finals and were crowned the champions.
Critical Mass also participated in the Northeast New Jersey League Championship. At this meet, the team ranked first out of 26 teams during the qualification matches and went on to become the finalist alliance captain. The team also won two awards: the Connect Award (1st place) and the Inspire Award (3rd place). The Connect Award is given to the team that engages in the STEM community, and the Inspire Award, the most prestigious award at an FTC competition, is given to a team who shows overall excellence and acts as an ambassador for FIRST / FTC (First Tech Challenge [firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc]).
Perhaps the most notable of the team’s accomplishments was when the team competed for the first time at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship at St. Louis Union Station. Despite it being the rookie year for most of our team members, the team finished the week 7-2, and ranked 18th overall out of 128 teams, making their team the highest-ranked NJ team at Worlds.
Faculty advisor and coach Marco Pagnotta, Ph.D., commented, “FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) sponsors four different robotics programs, two of [which] are for high school students: First Robotics Competition and First Tech Challenge. The team’s ‘bot for this year’s First Tech Challenge game, called Velocity Vortex, was built and modified over many competitions held over a season that started in September.”
The student members of Team 0207 Critical Mass who participated at Worlds included captain and team manager Kenneth Yan ’19; captain, chief builder and driver Robert Thea ’18; chief programmer Robert Aburustum ’19; head of CAD design Ho Jun Lee ’17, builders Austin Crawley ’19 and Luke Thompson ’19, driver Ryan Gross ’19 and pit manager Philip Lee ’19, together with Dr. Pagnotta and co-advisor/coach Chris Fleischl.
…‘Gracious Professionalism’ was in full display, as parts were lent and code and suggestions shared freely…
Dr. Pagnotta shares, “While the performance on the field was certainly gratifying, making contacts and new friends with other teams was equally rewarding. FIRST’s motto of ‘Gracious Professionalism’ was in full display, as parts were lent and code and suggestions shared freely; one team, The Techno Chix from NY even drove the Bulldogs’ ‘bot back to New Jersey. These relationships will pay dividends next season.”
The team was also able to squeeze in a short trip to the Gateway Arch, a night at Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals, and a few samplings of St. Louis style BBQ, one of which was with friends on Team Shatterdome from Korea. The team finished the week energized by the support of their peers and teachers back at D-E, who had watched their matches as a live stream on the Hajjar STEM Center video wall and cheered them on.
Dr. Pagnotta summed up the experience as follows: “The high energy of the week and being among so many other STEM- minded students was exhilarating; [this final competition] validated the hundreds of hours that D-E Team 0207 Critical Mass has put in over the course of this season and energized the team to strive as hard as possible to return to Worlds next year.”