By Elaine Loft
The Derryfield robotics teams have been busy these past few weeks strategizing and planning how to build a robot that scores a maximum amount of points for this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge. Part of this year’s challenge involves a robot throwing a paper airplane, so team members have also been building and evaluating various paper airplane designs. The students have also designed logos for the two Derryfield teams, the “Fighting Cougars” and the “Binary Bots,” as well as a logo representing the entire robotics program.
According to co-advisor, Tom Eng, “We have our team members involved in mechanical design, programming, electrical layout, finance, and marketing/communication. The activities are student led (with some direction set by the mentors). We try to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit with our teams.”
Upcoming team activities include a scrimmage on November 18th, 2023 and a STEM Outreach workshop this winter (January 27, 2024) with Dr. Chris Rogers of Tufts University. The STEM Outreach event will be a “placemat” workshop where 7th and 8th grade students from Breakthrough Manchester will build various mechanical creations using LEGO and wordless placemats.
Eng adds, “Team morale is high and the students are having fun.”
The Derryfield teams participate in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions. This non-profit/sports league started in 1989 as a local program to inspire New Hampshire teens in engineering and technology fields. It has grown to encompass more than 83,000 high schoolers in 31 countries.
In an article posted on the NPR website, Mark Leong aptly describes the fast frenzy of FIRST, “The tournaments are a whirring, banging combination of science fair, Pac-Man and March Madness played by demon-possessed lawnmowers. Robots compete in alliances of 3-vs-3 on a volleyball-sized playing area in two-and-half minute matches.”
Last year, the season specific task dictated by FIRST was to gather up tiny traffic cones to deposit on poles at either end of the playing field. FIRST revealed the 2024 game rules, CenterStage, at the start of September, and the Fighting Cougars and the Binary Bots are ready to take on the challenge.