LENOX — High-tech academics take center stage next week, when Lenox Memorial Middle and High School’s robotics team shows off the skills that made them one of the best teams in Massachusetts this winter.
Team Enginuity will hold a cheer rally on March 18, during the last class period of the school day.
“We’ll do a brief demonstration of the robot’s capabilities, and the school will be introduced to members of the Robotics Club,” said Matt Cote, team co-trainer and mentor.
The team is coming off a strong showing at the First Tech Challenge State Tournament on Saturday, March 5, where they finished 14th out of 32 teams. A total of 125 Commonwealth schools participated in First Tech this school year. The theme of the competition was “Freight Frenzy” – the robot had to load cargo-like cones and blocks.
Team Enginuity had gone unbeaten, winning all five matches in a qualifying competition in mid-February.
Freshman Stefan Zygawski said the robot performed well for the first 30 seconds of each game.
“We had autonomous code – the robot driving itself – where we got a lot of points,” he said.
The robot – it’s called “Not a Toaster” – had some trouble during the state competition, but ended up placing 12th among robots in matches, according to Cote.
Junior Talia Giardina was one of the robot builders who had to make the first adjustments during the early stages of construction.
“We had size issues, where the robot didn’t fit the size requirements, but we made it,” she said. “We cut holes and shortened some parts.”
Robotics season begins at the start of the school year, as students review this year’s competition tasks and begin to design and build their robot. The robot is the result of “hundreds” of hours of work, according to the team.
“We started in mid-September, meeting twice a week for two hours each day. It’s a long season and it takes a huge commitment from everyone involved,” Côté said.
The season consisted of three one-day competitions and two one-day weekend sessions with other schools.
Each year, the arena is a 12 square foot field with four robots – two “red” against two “blue”, forming two teams or alliances. The challenge is different every year. Sometimes this involves scoring with balls and cubes; other times it’s blocks and turns, according to Côté.
“For the first 30 seconds, the robots work on their own. Stefan had to program the robot to do several things,” said co-trainer and mentor Jim Currie.
Added rating: “You can’t train with your alliance team, you have to strategize on the fly.”
Team Enginuity also has a pit crew that makes sure the robot works and no parts come loose. Sophomore Owen Hart is the team mechanic.
“I watch the robot, making sure it’s working properly and everything is tight and staying together,” Hart said.
Although the robotics program is challenging and time-consuming, team members are having fun along the way. For the state tournament, Giardina baked cookies with robotics-themed frosting.
“We can get a little silly, because we’re having a lot of fun,” Côté said. “We received more feedback from other teams on our cookies than on our robot.”