Students off to St. Louis for robotic world championship

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A team of St. Mary’s students are pitting their robotagainst some of the world’s top competitors this week.


For this year’s FIRST Robotics world championship, being held in St. Louis, Missouri, entrants were required to build a robot that can move around and throw a ball to competing robots.


So the 32 St. Mary’s students, from grades 9 to 12, came up with a fitting name for their entry: Chuck.


After winning the regionals in New York City three weeks ago, the Hamilton team secured itself a spot in the world championships, which has about 400 schools vying for various awards and bragging rights.


The game for the FIRST Robotics competitions change every year. Last year, the robot had to throw a Frisbee. The St. Mary’s team called their robot Fling.


When the ball throw game was announced in January, “we started with brainstorming and then moved on to proof of concept,” said the team’s mentor, Matthew Alderson.


“Through this process, we see the students come up with wonderful things.”


Chuck’s progression grew quickly, as the team only had six weeks to build him from scratch.


“The best part about the process is seeing the moment the light comes on of making something that didn’t exist before,” Alderson said. “They get to the stage where they’ve accomplished something.”


The team was to play the first of its 10 games Thursday morning against robots from Israel, Texas and California.


“It’s a way for the students to co-operate with other teams,” said Alderson. “But it’s also an opportunity to scout out opponent robots and learn their strategy.”


Mike Meier, a student and team leader, got involved three years ago, thanks to a little push from his mom.


“They had an open house and I was sort of on the fence about it,” the 18-year-old said. “My mom said ‘Just do it, you’ll have fun,’ so here I am.”


The team went to the worlds last year, but had earned its spot through a wait list. They didn’t place.


“I’m looking at the buildings I saw last year that I didn’t think I’d see again,” Meier said. “I’m very happy to be here.”


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