By Amy Batista, Special Writer
Hightstown High School’s Team Mercury 1089 robotics team took home second place in the Curie Division at World Championships.
“We placed second place, which made us a captain of an alliance in the elimination tournament,” said team advisor Chris Gregory in an email on May 5. “Sadly, we were eliminated in the tournament, but we learned a lot, and had a great time competing.”
FIRST Robotics team competed April 27–30 in St. Louis, MO, against 75 teams in the Curie Division. There were 600 teams from around the world there, broken into eight divisions of 75 teams each, from places like Israel, Mexico and Canada.
The HHS team has around 60 active students ranging in grades 9-12.
In this year’s game, FIRST Stronghold robots were required to cross and breach defenses while trying to capture their opponents towers by launching ‘boulders,’ foam balls at it.
Mr. Gregory said when the HHS arrived at the event, it brought a set of spare parts to overhaul its robot’s drive system.
“New motors, wheels, axles, chains, and chain tensioners helped reduce the amount of friction we were generating as we drove,” he said. “Before this event, we were draining our entire battery before the match ended, and our motors would come off the field hot from working so hard.”
He said that in a couple matches, team members were able to fire seven boulders into the tower. He believes the team’s previous highest was five.
Eleventh-grader Gargi Sadalgekar, of East Windsor, head of the build team, said in an email on May 5 that the competition was chaotic, exhausting and nervewracking.
“It was also one of the highlights of my junior year,” she said. “I spent most of my time in the pits or on the field, so I got to see all of the top robots up close and I got to interact with the minds that made them, which was really awesome. Plus, it felt incredible to see our robot function at the top of its game because it proved not only that we deserved to be there, but also that building robots is what I love to do.”
Ms. Sadalgekar said that the intensity of the pits and the pride she felt seeing her team succeed was the best reward for all of their hard work.
“But the thing that made worlds really special was the experiences I had, both on and off the field, with my friends and mentors on the team,” she said. “Some great memories were made that couldn’t have been made anywhere else.”
Mr. Gregory said Ms. Sadalgekar was also a candidate for Dean’s List, kind of like best team member, at the Mid-Atlantic Championship.
“She was also a ‘human player’ that fed boulders back onto the field,” he said.
Twelfth-grader Vatsal Shah, of Hightstown, the driver of the robot, said in an email on May 5 that the competition was a thrilling experience.
“The best part about worlds this year was the fact that we were one of the best robots in our division,” he said. “Out of the past three years we competed at worlds, this was the only time we were ranked in the top right of our division, which allowed us to be an alliance captains.”
For him, the highlight of the season was watching other teams come to their pits to try to get us to pick them.
“On the day before alliance selections, teams would come to pits, ask what we look for in an alliance partner and then tell us what they offered if we selected them for our alliance,” he said.
He said that this was the first time this had happened to their team and it was just an amazing experience talking to students from other teams that came to their pits.
Twelfth-grader Jai Patel, of East Windsor, the captain of the programming team, said in an email on May 5 that this was the first time he had seen international teams at a robotics competition.
“I was equally excited to find teams that used some of the same ideas as we did and teams that had completely different ideas,” he said. “I saw that the purpose of a world competition wasn’t as much to compete against each other, but to connect off the field.”
He said that this year’s game forced them to communicate with other teams and they would not have been as successful if they had kept to themselves.
“It was great to see cooperation both within our team and between teams that had only just met,“ he said.
Twelfth-grader Jericho Tulayan, of East Windsor, the spirit captain of team, said in an email on May 5 that it was incredible watching the other teams who made the robots come to life.
“The feeling of spirit and competition in the atmosphere was very strong, making everyday just as exciting as the other days,” he said. “We all have so many things to share about our teams and how we enjoy robotics. It’s amazing to know what kinds of people you can meet with such a shared interest.”
Eleventh-grader Will Smith, of East Windsor, the media captain of the team, said in an email on May 5 that this was actually his third time going to worlds.
“This time going to worlds meant something else,” he said. “Last year our leadership was a little disorganized, so this year we made a point to try and build a strong student leadership. Going to worlds this year was sort of the proof we needed, that what we were doing was working and more proof came during the competition.”
Eleventh grader Dhruv Samdani, of East Windsor, one of the heads of the programming committee, said in an email on May 5 that worlds was a great competition.
“Honestly, the best part was watching a robot I helped make kick butt on the field,” he said.
Mr. Gregory also thanked sponsors, NRG energy and DoDSTEM for helping cover costs of the trip, as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb, TRUMPF Photonics, J. Rupp Construction, Conair and Shiseido for their continued support throughout the year.
HIGHTSTOWN: HHS robotics team comes up silver at World Championships
By Amy Batista, Special Writer