By Ed Harris
The Southington High School Cyber Knights team kicked off its 2014 season Saturday, with an all day kickoff event that included a new rookie partner team from Plainville High School.
The Cyber Knights team is now in its seventeenth year and currently consists of 65 students. The team is supported by more than a dozen mentors that donate their time to help teach the students.
Teams will now have six weeks to decide game strategy, design, prototype, design into CAD software, generate prints and manufacture, assemble, wire and program a 120 pound robot.
“Students join any number of sub-teams in these functions and work moves quickly, “ said Sandra Brino, a Cyber Knight mentor. “Students work seven days a week through this six week period.”
Each year the robots must be designed to accomplish certain tasks. The Cyber Knights just found out Saturday that this year, their robot must be able to play a game called Arial Assist. This game is about teamwork, with teams, in alliances of three, working together to score a large 24” ball across a field by passing it to each other.
Last year, the robots were required to throw Frisbees into scoring slots. The year prior, the robots had to play basketball.
The Cyber Knights will compete in two of the three competitions being held in Connecticut this year, including one being held for the first time in Southington, March 22-23.
The Knights will hope to score enough points to qualify for the New England District Championship, held in Boston in April and then the World Championships, held in St. Louis.
Over the years, the team has traveled the country, winning titles and creating a legacy of success. Last year, the team made a return trip to the world championships, held in Missouri. In 2006 the team finished second in the global competition.
Due in part to this success and the longevity of the program, the Cyber Knights were able to mentor the rookie team from Plainville.
“It is hard to start a program this technically complex and having a veteran team mentoring the first year is critical to successfully launching a program that can then be sustained,” Brino said. “Being a solid veteran team, it has always been a dream of team 195 from Southington to mentor a rookie team. When we heard that Plainville was starting a team we jumped right in to help.”
Representatives from Plainville did not reply to an email seeking comment.
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By Ed Harris