By Lisa Capobianco
Members of the Southington High School Cyber Knights recently unveiled this year’s robot—an innovation they created within a six-week time frame.
The Cyber Knights named the 120-pound robot “F-195 Knighthawk” in honor of the F-17 Nighthawk, a stealth ground attack aircraft of the U.S. Air Force, which decided to be sponsor of the robotics team for the first time this year. Students tweaked the name to fit the number 195, which is part of the team’s official name, “SHS FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team 195.”
Sandra Brino, a mentor of the robotics team, said the team wanted to honor military members for their service to the country. This year they decided to focus their community service outreach on local veterans.
“Our team is very focused on community outreach,” Brino said. “The Air Force was very honored.”
“We’re overjoyed we’re being looked at by the Air Force,” added Bailey Kahl, a junior at the high school who has served on the robotics team for two years now, working on the manufacturing side.
Now in its seventeenth year, the Cyber Knights team spent at least 30 hours a week building, programming, testing and designing the robot, creating an official one to be used in the upcoming FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and a “twin” robot to troubleshoot any difficulties.
Last month, the Knights kicked off its 2014 season last month during a kick-off event, where they found out the kind of task the robot must perform. This year the students designed their robot to play a game called Arial Assist, which involves two alliances of three teams each competing to score as many balls in goals as possible in a match lasting two minutes and 30 seconds long. They can earn additional points by robots working together to score goals.
Last year, the Cyber Knights designed the robot to throw Frisbees into scoring slots. In 2012, the robots had to play basketball.
“The teamwork is extremely important for this year’s game,” Brino said.
“There’s a strategy to it—you have to think about how you’re going to perform,” added Kahl, who said that creating a twin will help his team perfect the official robot.
In March, the Cyber Knights will compete in two competitions held in Connecticut, including one taking place for the first time in Southington from March 22-23. The FIRST competition will feature dozens of robotics teams from the state as well as other New England.
“I’m pretty confident in our robot,” said Kahl, adding that he likes how the design of the robot all came together. “It’s truly exciting and awesome.”
If the Knights score enough points, they will qualify to compete in the New England District Championship, which will take place in Boston this April and then the World Championships. Over the years, the Knights have accomplished a legacy of success, winning titles and the traveling the country. Last year, the team competed in the world championships, held in Missouri. The team also came in second during the global competition in 2006.
“It turns into a full-time job,” said Kahl, who plans on pursuing a career in engineering. “It’s challenging, but we enjoy it.”