The University School of Milwaukee Wildcats robotics team (team #6823) took 10th place after qualifications in the Midwest Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, held March 7 to 9 in Chicago, the highest ranking ever for a USM team. The team also served for the first time as captain of an alliance team this year, in which they were able to select other teams to join their alliance. The Wildcats competed against 53 other teams from throughout the U.S. and China, England, and the Netherlands.
The team also competed at the South Florida Regional competition in Palm Beach, Fla., March 27 to 30, where the Wildcats were selected for a 6th-seed alliance and finished 35th out of 64 teams.
This year’s team—consisting of 35 active students—more than doubled in size from last year, with each member assigned to a specific area of expertise. Fabrication, coding, electronics, finance and media, and a drive team that operates the robot during competition are just some of the tasks needed to build the 150-pound robot in six weeks.
The theme of this year’s competition, presented by the Boeing Company, was “Destination: Deep Space.” Teams were challenged to build robots that could collect samples, navigate unpredictable terrain and weather patterns, and gather as many cargo pods as possible, among other tasks.
“What’s great about FIRST Robotics is that it’s not just about having a superior robot,” said David Anderson, the school’s innovation engineer and robotics team coach. “Students have to be able to strategize with their alliance teams—sometimes complete strangers—to win the round. They have to be able to ‘sell’ their robot’s strengths, analyze other teams’ strengths, and manage a complex set of relationships, much like what happens in a work environment.”
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $50 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12; FIRST LEGO League for Grades 4-8; and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for Grades K-4. Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.