Robotics team gears up for FIRST Steamworks
FARMINGTON - Mt. Blue High School's FIRST Robotics Team is returning to action this year, looking to build on the successes of their rookie season.
The Blue Crew Robotics team competed against the top 64 of the 181 New England teams at the championship event at the Hartford Civic Center in April 2016, winning the Rookie All-Star and the Highest Rookie Seed awards.
It is the Blue Crew's first year taking part in the competition, utilizing a NASA grant and some startup money from Robotics in Maine to get their team off the ground. The team acquired school board approval in January 2016, giving them a few short weeks to build a robot capable of conquering fortifications, lobbing foam boulders and hoisting itself atop a tower. All of these tasks are part of the FIRST Stronghold 2016 Challenge, which pits alliances consisting of four teams apiece against each other around a customizable fortress.
The event took up the entire floor at the civic center, the largest venue the team had ever competed in, with robots battling for points beneath the banners of the now-defunct Hartford Whalers National Hockey League Team and the men's and women's University of Connecticut championship basketball teams.
This season, entitled FIRST Steamworks, began in January in an introductory video that kicked off a six-week build cycle. This year's objective is to launch a large airship, via the collection, transportation and depositing of plastic gears and balls. Each match consists of multiple robots assembled by school teams, with a period for autonomous movement and a period for human operation. At the conclusion of the match, the 100-plus pound robots must pull themselves onto the airship.
The Blue Crew team has been working to get their multi-purpose robot running smoothly, and is continuing to incorporate elements such as a ball launcher and a climbing mechanism. They will be competing against teams sponsored by companies like Google, Bose, Raytheon, Rockwell Automation and other leaders of the tech industry.
Last year, the Blue Crew was awarded the Highest Rookie Seed. They earned the 18th overall ranked team in New England out of the 181 teams, most of them veteran teams. The Blue Crew was the third highest scoring team from Maine.
The Blue Crew also won the Rookie All-Star Award, which "celebrates the rookie team exemplifying a young but strong partnership effort, as well as implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology."
This year, members said, they were hoping to build on that rookie success. The first competition is in Bridgewater, Mass. on March 10 but the second will bring the team back to Maine, with a March 30 event in Lewiston.