Franklin FIRST Robotics maneuvers to victory
Published 11:09 am Wednesday, March 26, 2014
FRANKLIN—It wasn’t a fluke when the Franklin High School FIRST Robotics Team made it to the world championships last year. At least, according to Cindy Mitrovic, 14, who has been with the program for 3 years.
“The second year we won almost justified the first year that we won,” she said. “It is like, we might actually know what we are doing. We are not winning because we are lucky – we are winning because we are quality.”
Kyle Johnson, a volunteer mentor who is the network administrator at Chowan University, said that the team started out winning, then lost a few. But when it came to the elimination tournament, Team 1610 went undefeated on its way to earning a second trip to St. Louis, where the world championship will be hosted.
“The elimination tournament are the best two out of three, and we never had a set go to three matches,” said Johnson, who first joined the FIRST robotics program at Southampton High School, which is now disbanded. “I feel like this is one of the better competitions we have had.”
In the elimination tournament, Team 1610, also known as B.O.T. (Builders Of Tomorrow) was allied with Team Sparky 384 from J.R. Tucker High School in Henrico County and the Fighting Robo-Vikings, a team from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa. These teams also will compete in the world championships.
Three other Virginia Regional Tournament schools, all from Virginia, earned the right to compete in St. Louis, out of 64 teams that competed.
“Not many people can say that they are going to the world championship,” said Oakley Sthole, a senior who has been with the program for three years. “I’m ready to pack up and go already.”
Sarah Conner, a 14-year-old who has been with the program for three years, said this year was better for her because she was more involved with the program.
“I was down there when Cindy was strategizing, so I was a part of it. It was a whole different experience,” she said. “Last year, I was in the stands scouting and stuff. It was just really amazing.”
Conner said her role has changed a lot since her first year, and she’s all the better for it. The team ended up picking the prototype that Conner came up with.
“I have to admit that my first year, I was one of the ones who just wandered around and looked,” she said. “But this year, I can actually say that I built parts of the robot. It is really cool to be able to say that I helped with the robot.”
Jatrez Foster, 14, was part of the pit crew, which helped make sure the robot was primed for the matches and was responsible for fixing any problems that came up. Foster said when they go to St. Louis, he’ll be part of the drive team.
“My favorite part was watching our robot win,” said Foster, who has been with the team for two years. “I can’t wait for St. Louis because I want to see our robot win again.”
In his first year on the team, Donald Wintersteen, 14, said he joined because it was a natural fit.
“I just love to build things,” he said. “My stepdad told me about it. He had talked to Mrs. [Elizabeth] Burgess, and asked me to try it out, and I said OK.
“It was just awesome winning,” he added. “I can’t really describe the feeling.”
On the field, Mitrovic was the coach.
“I would set the strategy,” she said. “I had to convey with my allies and to the drive team what needed to be done. It was amazing.”
Adding about winning, Mitrovic said, “It was just so enlightening to see six weeks of hard work pay off. Literally, it brought me to a whole new level of excitement.”
Elizabeth Burgess, the team’s coach, said she was really proud of her whole team.
“It was a team effort,” she said. “Not just the drive team, because we had people in the stands who had to score matches and there were people out scouting. It was truly a team endeavor.”
The people in the pit particularly pulled their weight, said Burgess.
“We had continuing issues,” she said. “Just small things, like a tube that had a small hole in it. Each time we would have a problem, they would fix it.”
Burgess said that the trip to St. Louis wasn’t going to come easy for the small program. Any one who wants to donate can make contributions to the Franklin City Educational Foundation, and earmark it to the robotics team. The address is P.O. Box 96, Franklin, VA, 23851.
Josette Sthole-Hayes, one of the team’s moms, has also set up two fundraising opportunities, one at the Franklin Dairy Queen, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 10; and the other at Fred’s Restaurant, from 7 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, April 13.
“I have seen this team grow individually, and also as a team,” she said. “They work so well together. It makes me extremely proud to be a very supportive parent of this team.
“This team is awesome – please come out and support them.”
They will also be competing at the Chesapeake Bay Regional at the University of Maryland in early April.