By JEN CARDINES
Last year, Southington’s Team 195 CyberKnight team placed fourth in the world out of 3,200 other teams from 18 countries. In both 2015 and 2016, they were the reigning New England champions in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).
Now, they are preparing to defend their title in the upcoming season, which marks year 20 for the CyberKnights.
Comprised of all Southington High School (SHS) students, the CyberKnights team is part of a national organization called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The organization is run in different age brackets, where Southington’s Team 195 competes in the FRC high school division.
The program, in partnership with SHS and FIRST, runs purely on local businesses and operates through a board of directors.
Board member Sandra Brino said The CyberKnights are well into their six week build season, which ends the third week in February. Local competitions begin the first week of March.
After a full school day, CyberKnight students usually spend every weeknight working from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on their design and assembly of the robot. The process is purposefully long and intricate so that they can minimize mistakes and maximize efficiency.
Team captains Natiya Washer and Nick Rappi said that by creating a wooden prototype, the team can test the function and ensure that it works before spending time and resources on the real deal.
In addition, a group of parents and mentors build a practice field so that the team can better prepare for competitions. Washer said that the CyberKnights invite any team to utilize their field space for practice, knowing that many districts aren’t as fortunate to receive the sponsorship that 195 has.
This year, the game is called Steamworks and will allow human players to be on the playing field for the first time ever. Teams need to construct a robot that can shoot balls into a goal, deliver gears, and climb up to an airship.
Some local businesses help Team 195 manufacture intricate metal parts, while others donate materials and work space to build the robot and field. The team has about 100 sponsors to date.
Currently, the wooden prototype is completed and functioning, so the CyberKnights can begin assembling their competition robot, which will make its debut in the first weekend of March at Wilby High School in Waterbury.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JEN CARDINES