The robotics teams from Hazelwood Central and Hazelwood West high schools are days away from the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship. The 2011 event takes place at the Edward Jones Dome in downtown St. Louis from April 27 through April 30. Teams from 61 countries are expected to participate.
Both teams earned entry to the championship during regular season competition.
Team 2408 of Hazelwood West, also known as the Shrapnel Sergeants, earned three significant awards this season. In December, the team won the Think Award at a competition at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley. In February, the team won the Inspire Award at an event at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The achievement opened the door to the culminating event. In March, they were presented with the Gracious Professionalism Award for their sportsmanship and generosity at the FIRST Robotics Competition St. Louis Regional.
Team 1985, the RoboHawks of Hazelwood Central, took the path to the championship by winning the FIRST Robotics Competition St. Louis Regional in March. Not only did the team win first place, they were presented the Excellence in Engineering Award, and co-captain Luther Banner, a junior, received the FIRST Dean’s List Award.
The FIRST website describes the Dean’s List honor as recognition of “members of the FIRST community who excel as student leaders and lead their teams and communities to increased awareness of the mission of FIRST.”
The Shrapnel Sergeants and the RoboHawks are working diligently for the competition.
Alex Hoeft, a senior and captain of Team 2408, explained what they are doing to prepare for the next round of competition.
“We’re working on software issues. We’ve straightened out our hardware issues. We’re working on autonomy for the robot and sensors,” Hoeft said.
“We’ve had lots of practices, too.” They meet after school 3 to 4 days a week, sometimes until 8:00 p.m. The first hour of practice is dedicated to homework. The team also meets on Saturdays.
Hoeft is looking forward to the next level of competition.
“I’m interested in seeing the other teams and experiencing the environment. Robotics isn’t like traditional sports. We help other teams in need if we can and vice versa.”
It’s not the first experience at the championship for Team 2408; in 2010, they traveled to Atlanta.
Banner said he and his RoboHawks teammates will “make adjustments based on what we saw during regionals.”
He has been interested in FIRST since elementary school, and joined the RoboHawks in ninth-grade. Through the program, he has developed an appreciation for its purpose.
“FIRST makes you aware of the field of science and technology, but it teaches you stuff beyond that,” said Banner.
Having the event in St. Louis is a bonus for both teams.
“We can have more family participation. It’s free, so they can come and see our robots,” Hoeft said.
Jordan Fusco, a senior team member of the Shrapnel Sergeants, is looking forward to the championships.
“Hopefully, our team will do well,” Fusco said. He noted that there is some level of stress for the team related to their programming, but he thinks everything will work out.
Hoeft shared his hopes for Team 2408.
“I hope we all have fun. We’re not really concerned about winning because making it to this level is an achievement. My expectation is that after it’s over, we know that we competed to our fullest and had fun doing it.”
Admission to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship is free. The organization and its sponsors also offer approximately $14 million in scholarships during the competition. Sixty percent of the scholarships are for those who want to study engineering and technology, and the remaining 40 percent are for those who participated in FIRST, but will study outside of the field.