The municipal center meeting room was “standing room only” on Jan. 5 for the annual FIRST Robotics season kickoff ceremony. The Southington High School robotics team, FIRST Team 195 CyberKnights, along with past team members, mentors, family members, community supporters, school boards and administration had waited in anticipation for the announcing of the 2019 season’s game.
They had nothing to do but wait. They knew this year’s theme, “Deep Space,” but what will be the challenge? This season, CyberKnights will face over 4,000 teams, 436 of which are rookie teams this year.
This year’s game was revealed in a livestream from FIRST headquarters in Vermont. During competition, the team’s robot will be charged with filling a rocket with cargo in order to earn points. There are two game pieces this year: hatchet panels, and cargo.
The robots must place six panels over the rocket’s hatchets to keep cargo in. Then, it will fill the rocket with six large balls, or “cargo.”
New challenges were implemented into the playing field this year, including a 15 second sandstorm that completely blocks the team’s vision of the playing field, and steps instead of ramps that the robot will have to climb.
Josh Gregory, team member, said having two game pieces this year is an added challenge.
“This will be a very tough game, but the team is always up for the challenge,” said Gregory. “We will always compete the best we can.”
Matt Purpura said parking at the base will be difficult with no ramps, while Noah Lee is interested in how to manage the sandstorm.
“That twist is going to be hard since we’ve always had vision of our robot before, but I like that you don’t necessarily have to stick with autonomous control,” said Lee. “We have the option to put a camera on the robot.”
Mentor Gino Brino challenged the team to stop, observe, and look for new ways to improve with every step they take.
“We only have six weeks to build and start the competition season. This team is known worldwide, and there are over 4,000 teams competing – a lot of them have us in their sights,” said Brino. “Be humble, and don’t take this for granted. The past is not going to help you. You have to do your part this season in order to be successful.”
Team mentor Sandra Brino threw down the gauntlet to this year’s squad.
“Remember that you are building your own legacy, not only for yourselves and your team, but also remember you are representing your school and your town,” she said. “We are 195, and now, you have to make 195 your own place. I’m excited to see the great things you all are going to do this year.”
Once the season officially begins, team members will build a robot to compete in a game field against another team’s robot. From kickoff until July, students spend countless hours each week in the CyberKnights shop.
“These folks will be down at the shop probably until 3 or 4 a.m. tonight. They build from 3 p.m. after school until midnight,” said SHS principal Brian Stranieri. “I love what they do from an engineering standpoint, but what impresses me the most about this group is what they do from a community service standpoint. There is great character, respect and integrity that is instilled in our students.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.