PAWTUCKET — Shea High School’s “Raiderbots” robotics team won the FIRST Tech Challenge Inspire Award last weekend, thus qualifying them for the FIRST World Championship in Detroit in late April.
The Inspire Award is given to the team that the judges felt truly embodied the challenge of the FIRST Tech Challenge program, officials said in an email. The team that receives the award is a “strong ambassador for FIRST programs and works to promote FIRST and make it loud in their community.”
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” FIRST was founded in the late-1980s by inventor Dean Kamen, who sought to inspire students with an appreciation of science and technology through robotics.
Shea High’s Raiderbots received the Inspire Award for performing well in all judging categories and was chosen by the judges as a model team both on and off the playing field. The judges used match performance, observations made during interviews and in the pit area, the team’s engineering notebook, and performance on the playing field in determining the winner, officials said.
The challenge that the teams were engaged in last Saturday was called “Rover Ruckus.” It involved robots in two periods – autonomous and driver-controlled – seeking to attain a higher score than the opposing squad by descending from a “lander,” collecting “minerals,” and sorting and scoring them into the lander’s “cargo hold.”
Shea High’s team will be joined in Detroit on April 24 through 27 by “The Cybears” of Shoreline Robotics in Westerly, which won last weekend’s FIRST Tech Challenge. Thirty-one schools across Rhode Island competed at the weekend challenge at New England Institute of Technology’s Automotive Campus, to showcase their skills in a high-energy day-long series of robot contests.
In addition to the Shea High “Raiderbots,” and “Invaders” teams, Pawtucket was well represented at last Saturday’s competition, with two teams from Samuel Slater Junior High School and a squad from Blackstone Academy Charter School also showcasing their respective robots.
Shea High Principal Jacqueline E. Ash said she was “very proud” of the students and their adviser, business and technology teacher Verda Jones.
“Our students are amazing!” Ash said in an email sent to The Times. “They are skilled, talented, and persevere to solve any robotic issue. The students work endless hours, often staying after school and coming on the weekends.”
Ash was proud to acknowledge that robotics integrates mechanical, electrical, electronics, computer science, science, math, and English all in one single learning experience. “What other class does that?” she wondered.
“True 21st century learning provides hands-on experiences, development of critical thinking, problem solving skills, and working as a team,” Ash said. “It builds confidence and self-esteem.”
Shea High senior David Ofori said he’s been involved in robotics going back to his first year with the Slater team in seventh grade. During an interview with The Times at last weekend’s competition, he said his teammates were “like my second family. We do everything for each other.”
Because of his fascination with robotics, Ofori said he plans on majoring in mechanical engineering and has already been accepted into University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth and the University of Maine.
Follow Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette