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Next Stop: FIRST World Robotics Championship

After a high-tech tournament in Richmond that tested their teamwork and ingenuity, five Virginia high school teams and a team from Pennsylvania have won the right to compete at the FIRST world robotics Championship. Sixty-four teams from Virginia and eight other eastern states participated in the two-day meet March 21-22. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. More than 3,000 people turned out at VCU’s Siegel Center to cheer-on the contestants.

A three-team alliance emerged victorious after more than 100 rounds of qualifying and elimination matches and its members will go on to compete in St. Louis in late April:

  • “Sparky 384” from J.R. Tucker H.S. in Henrico County, Virginia, winning its second trip in a row to the world Championship.
  • Builders of Tomorrow,” from Franklin City Schools in Franklin, Virginia, also winning a second trip in a row to the St. Louis contest.
  • Fighting Robo-Vikings,” from Archbishop Wood H.S. in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

Three other teams also earned a place at the FIRST Championship for the quality of their performance on and off the competition field at the Virginia Regional:

  • Mech Tech Dragons” from Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia - winner of the Virginia Regional Chairman’s Award, FIRST’s most prestigious award, honoring the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, embodying the goals and mission of FIRST.
  • Talon 540 Godwin Robotics,” from Mills Godwin High School in Henrico County -  winner of the Engineering Inspiration Award, celebrating outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school as well as their community. This team won the same award last year and is making its second trip in a row to St. Louis.
  • Team FeNix,” from Landstown H.S. Governor’s STEM Academy in Virginia Beach – named Rookie All Stars at the Virginia Regional.

This year’s game, “Aerial Assist,” challenges robots designed and built by high school students to collect and toss two-foot diameter exercise balls through goals. Teams play in alliances and robots that work together earn extra points. Robots in FRC can be up to five feet tall and weigh up to 120 pounds.

FIRST teams around the world had just six weeks this winter to design, program and build their robots. They were armed with their own ingenuity and assisted by mentors, but were given NO instructions.

Helping to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the FRC Regional in Virginia, U.S. Senator Timothy Kaine of Virginia visited the event Saturday afternoon and told the crowd that “FIRST robotics brings science and engineering to life.” Kaine also praised the Virginia Regional as “one of the best spectator events in town.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the ambitious mission of transforming modern culture by celebrating science and technology and encouraging more students to be interested in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and career opportunities.


Story by: Jim Babb

Photos by: Bill Sigafoos/Virginia

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