by Agnes Geiger with info provided by Jennifer Hammerberg and Mary Waterhouse
The Stockbridge Sprockets, a robotics club for grades seven and eight, launched into its second year of competition and learning in early September with a kickoff event at Oxford Middle School.
Team members are participating in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST Tech Challenge.
Under the direction of teacher and lead coach Mary Waterhouse and other mentors, the Sprockets will design, build and program a robot to play a floor game against robots designed by other teams of students.
Sprockets members currently share one robot, but the Stockbridge Area Educational Foundation has approved a grant for a second robot kit for the team. With the additional robot, the students can work together in teams and create additional designs for testing.
During the Oxford Middle School kickoff, the students discussed the year’s challenge, viewed an official pit area and setup for the competition, and had a chance to test their robot designs.
Because July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon, the FIRST competitions this school year all have an outer space theme.
The games involve the robots moving items from one space to another. Extra points are earned if robots can start off the ground and pull themselves up at the end.
The students compete in an alliance format, working with another team, as red or blue groups. The alliances are random, and students may be working with one team in one round, but competing against the same team in another round.
According to the FIRST website at firstinspires.org, the activity is “way more than just building robots.”
“Students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles,” it states, “while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas.”
Students also may be eligible for college scholarships because of their participation and learning in the FIRST program.
FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest in science and technology. The nonprofit organization is based in Manchester, N.H. About 530,000 students in grades K-12 participate in FIRST on 60,000 teams in more than 80 countries.