by Stockbridge FIRST Robotics team members and Patrice Johnson
The good news was the Stockbridge FIRST Robotics team qualified for the FIRST Robotics World Championships. The bad news? These ninth- through 12th-grade students had one week to raise the $10,000 necessary in order to attend. They needed $5,000 for the registration fee, plus $5,000 for lodging and food.
Team 6591 Panther Powered switched gears and ground into full-throttled fundraising mode. Friends and family donated through PaySchools; the school board approved emergency funding; local businesses, individuals and organizations, including the Lions and SAEF, donated; supporters and sponsors dug deep, then deeper. Seven days later, on April 23, the 21-member Stockbridge team stepped onto COBO Center grounds. It was game on.
Over the next two days, Team 6591 Panther Powered joined with 405 other world-class teams from Canada to Israel, from South Africa to Taiwan to test their skills.
“Our pit crew kept the robot in working order and our scouting team provided valuable data on the capabilities of our allies and opponents,” lead mentor Bryan Tasior said. “Our drive team members Jade Harbert, Keshava Demerath-Shanti, Jon Clark, and Hunter Fee performed very well at the competition.”
Tasior, a teacher at the Jr/Sr High School, explained that early technical difficulties with the robot controllers led the team to lose its first few matches. “But the team bounced back,” he said, “overcoming obstacles with the robot to end up going 4 to 6 overall and placing 47th in our division.”
Tasior, pleased with the showing, said, “It was an amazing experience just to get to that level of competition for a young team. We have shown incredible growth in our three years and have big plans for the future.” The experience also cultivated important new partnerships with area companies and mentors, he said.
The FIRST team hopes to grow in size, add new members and adult mentors, he stated. They plan to “return next year to make a run into the playoffs.”
“Developing our middle school FIRST Tech team and adding new FIRST Lego League teams will be priorities making the program available to all students K-12 in our district,” he explained. “There is always a lot to do. Our team will be meeting through the summer in addition to during the school year to accomplish our goals.”
In addition to six arenas of non-stop robot action, the championship event featured an innovation and career fair, guest celebrity appearances, a welcome party at Ford Field with live music and games, and even a RoboProm for students at the Detroit Renaissance Center.
Tasior and team expressed gratitude for the help and generosity of the community.