NRHS performs well at robotics meet

Published 6:42 pm Monday, April 19, 2010

Against players coming from Australia, Israel and other parts of the world, Nansemond River High School’s star rookie proved he could play with the big boys.

Nansemond River’s robotics team and its soccer-playing robot, which won the state 2010 All-Star Rookie award, spent the weekend at the Georgia Dome competing at the 2010 FIRST World Championships with the top robotics teams in the world and brought home a trophy as the top-ranking rookie team in its division.

“The team performed very, very well — better than we did at regional,” said Nansemond River teacher and Team Advisor Dawn Rountree. “We did even better than we’d prepared to do.”

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This is the first year Nansemond River High School has put together a team to compete in the worldwide FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The robotics competition is in its 19th year and has 45,000 high school students participating worldwide.

The mission of the program is to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” according to the FIRST website.

The students had only six weeks to design a soccer-playing robot, taking into account several variables, such as the layout of the field and the movement of the soccer ball.

They had help this year from sponsors, the TALON 540 mentor team from Henrico County, school administration and mentors from Boeing and Christopher Newport University.

Team members said they were disappointed that they couldn’t add all the bells and whistles they had intended to their robot. But “it was great to see so many teams at the games that had similar designs,” team captain Deric Eley said. “I like to say great minds think alike.”

The design ideas on how to create the robot came from combining the strengths of the team’s members.

“We had to change up some of our designs during the last minute, but the students used their engineering minds with the knowledge of some soccer players on the team to come up with something new,” Rountree said. “We have great camaraderie on the team.”

In addition to the teamwork and practical application of engineering that the students learned, going to World Championships allowed the students to see a different world.

“It was a great experience to see teams from all over the world and see the similar ideas and goals we were all working toward,” Eley said.

“I was able to go to the floor of the Georgia Dome, and it was overwhelming,” said awards leader, Camden Stevens. “There were over 10,000 people from all over the world in the stands, but I could look up and see our team with our sign.”

Because the trip to Georgia came as a surprise, the team is still trying to raise funds to get out of the red, but there are already plans to continue next year.

“We had no idea we’d advance to worlds,” Rountree said. “We only had three weeks to come up with funds, so we’re still looking for sponsors and raising funds to get out of the red. But we’re definitely planning on doing this again next year.”