By TAYLOR HARTZ
The Southington High School Cyber Knights (Team 195) launched their 2016 season in a worldwide kickoff last weekend.
At 10a.m. on Jan. 8, FIRST robotics launched the international robotics season with the announcement of their Stronghold game. The Stronghold game is the annual challenge that each team faces in competition.
The game’s big reveal is “like Christmas and New Years altogether,” said Gino Brino, a lead mentor for the team.
Team 195 shirts filled the room at the Municipal Center, with students, parents, mentors, sponsors, and alumni gathered together to support the team. In a video showed nationwide featuring FIRST founder Dean Kamen, students were shown a visual demonstration of this year’s medieval-themed game.
“The competition is new every year,” said Kamen in the video reveal.
The founder said FIRST aims to teach students how to continue learning. “We get to be a part of a group that is changing the future of the world,” he said.
“You will get a dose of true education,” Dr. Woody Flowers, Co-Chair of the FIRST Advisory Board said in a video interview.
Flowers hopes the competition will help students be confident that they can complete new, complex, challenges. “You must be able to do things machines cannot yet do,” he said in the video.
Cheers and applause erupted in the audience as the challenge was announced, showing a playing field featuring two towers and more than 10,000 possible field configurations.
The objective is for each team’s robot to score the most boulders into their opponents’ tower, resulting in the capture of the tower at the end of their quest.
In the first 15 seconds of the quest the robots must operate independently, but for the remaining two minutes and 15-seconds, human drivers can control the robots to defend their own castle, obtain boulders, and score goals.
The kickoff announcement provided the Cyber Knights with a wealth of information to begin their preparation for competition season.
In addition to the game description, the team now has access to a complete game manual, a drawing of the playing field, video tours of the field, details of their “Kit of Parts” for their robot design, and a list of game materials.
“Its game-on for the next four months,” said Brino.
In 2015, the CyberKnights earned a division finalist title and the Engineering Inspiration Award when they competed against 600 teams from across the globe at the World Championships in St. Louis, MO.
According to FIRST, more than 3,000 teams will compete this year in regional competitions, with eight district championships leading up to the worldwide competition.
“People follow what you do religiously,” said Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan. “You have a wealth of support in Southington.”
Team 195’s success at the 2015 World Championship pre-qualified the team for the 2016 World Championships, where their entrance into the competition will be sponsored by NASA.