The Patrick County High School Robotics Team won the “Judges Award” in January at the Southwest Regional Qualifier Robotics Competition at Southwest Community College in Cedar Bluff.
The team won the award entitled “Environmental Sustainability” for its innovative design of a stationary bike that produced electricity. At the competition the team charged their computers, iPhones and robot through pedaling the bike, thus being completely off of the electricity grid to go 100% green energy.
The criteria for the award reads as such.
“During the course of the competition, the judging panel may encounter a team whose unique efforts, performance or dynamics merit recognition, yet doesn’t fit into any of the existing award categories. To recognize these unique teams, FIRST offers a customizable judges award. The judging panel may select a team to be honored, as well as the name of the judges’ award.”
There was a bevy of judges that visited all of the teams’ assigned stations. They interviewed team members and took notes throughout the day. Then they compared notes and discussed what impressed and jumped out at them.
During the awards ceremony, the official announcement read “This team’s mascot can save you with their fierce growl. They really know how to ‘Go Green.’ They have peddled their way into Southwest Virginia to inspire others. The Judges Award for Environmental Sustainability is presented to 257, Cougarbots, Patrick County High School in Stuart.”
Mario Delgado, the team’s mentor oversaw the project.
The news of winning the award softened some of the disappointment the team experienced with not qualifying for the state championships. They failed to make the alliance round which is where the state qualifying is made possible.
In all fairness to the team, some of the hardware did not arrive until after the winter break, thus giving them only hours to finish the build and test the programming before leaving for the competition. Once at the competition, the team had a long day discovering and fixing programming glitches along with wiring challenges. However, this is what makes FTC so great.
Regardless of results, every team leaves the event more experienced and battle hardened. “I am very proud of the team persevering through many challenges,” said Head Coach Stephen Biedrycki.
Even after finishing their competition, the Cougarbots continued to work on the robot, making sure that they fixed all of the challenges while the information on how to fix them was still fresh in their minds. “I have not seen a more determined group of competitors, never throwing in the towel or even entertaining the idea that failure was an option,” Biedrycki said.
The Cougarbots are now back in the shop working to improve their robot. They hope to find some local teams to compete against or at least collaborate with. The nearest teams for FTC are in Danville or Christainsburg.
The team feels fortunate to be able to have this program at the high school, but wishes there were more opportunities to compete. Robotics has grown so popular in Virginia and the United States that as of now a season consists of one event to qualify for states. Out of the 23 teams that they competed against, only four teams get to advance from this competition.
The team is always looking for sponsors and their community businesses to help them support or fund all aspects of the team. Everything from parts, to registration to lodging and food entails funding.
The team would like to thank Mario Delgado for being a mentor, bus driver and design consultant, the Patrick County High School, specifically Trey Cox and Lorie Hylton, for finding and disbursing funds, Wayne Gilley, president of Mechanical Design of Virginia, Coach Biedrycki for juggling his time between the wrestling team and robotics, and wrestling Coach David Morrison for supporting this juggling routine.