‘Our mission should always be to learn’

Warwick. Warwick Community Robotics Team TACA wins Judges Award and Connect Award at Excelsior regional competition

| 15 Jun 2021 | 08:51

A local team of young engineers and programmers from Warwick recently competed at the FIRST Tech Challenge Excelsior Regional MVCC Qualifier.

They competed against 30 teams from all over the state in the virtual ultimate goal challenge to build and code robots to complete autonomous and driver tasks in two minute rounds of nail-biting competition.

The Ultimate Goal is the name for the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics game for the 2020-2021 season. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

Focus and hard work pays off

Team T.A.C.A. (Total and Complete Amateurs) worked many long hours to complete the design, build and programming of a robot while learning Java and CAD design.

They also connected with local members of the engineering, science and technology community.

The team received the Judges Award, which is given to a team whose unique efforts, performance or dynamic merit recognition. This award recognized this unique team for their outstanding efforts and contribution to their community this season.

The team placed third for the Connect Award, which is given to the team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) community. The team recognizes that engaging their local stem community plays an essential part in their success and actively seeks and recruits engineers and explores the opportunities available in the world of engineering, science and technology. The team connected with local professionals in science and technology fields including Brian Corbin, software engineer for Mobile Coin, and James Warner who works for NASA.

The challenges of the Year of COVID

Team TACA members are Thomas Magee (Captain), Aiden Woods (Captain and FTC Dean’s List Semi Finalist), Ronan Patel, Ashok Sathiyamoorthy, Kahlan Fallon and Swathi Sathiyamoorthy.

This year the team faced the unique challenges of COVID. They had to figure out how to meet remotely and safely while designing and coding the robot. Team T.A.C.A., based at the Warwick Community Center, had to relocate after the shutdown. They retreated to the garage and outdoors using a combination of small social distance meetings and regular online meetings. They also had to rethink their community outreach approach. The team held regular robot demonstrations over the past few years at the Warwick Farmers Market. However, due to the pandemic they had to go virtual.

They were still able to gain new team members and new sponsors and developed a relationship with the community that helped keep them going. Although the in-person outreach opportunities were limited this season, the technical skills such as web and mobile apps that the team used for community outreach ultimately prepared them for this challenging time.

While they worked intensively, they also made time to relax and bond by soldering guitars and having socially distanced jam sessions after practice.

“Even though some of these activities didn’t necessarily pertain to this season’s challenge,” said team member Aiden Woods, “they were ways for our team to bond and make new memories and set a good foundation for future seasons.”

Team T.A.C.A. used this opportunity to make the best of this challenging year. Instead of saying “we can’t,” they found ways to engineer their own learning.

Senior member Thomas Magee found his participation with the robotics team pivotal in his acceptance into Ithaca College’s Emerging Media program. He will study an integrative curriculum where he can foster his learning in Science Technology Engineering Art and Math.

“We are constantly looking to learn and grow both as individuals and as a team,” hesaid, “whether we are learning from each other, from other teams, or from our coaches and mentors. There is still so much for us to learn in STEM, and we’re not afraid to admit that. Even though the awards from doing well at competitions are nice, we believe that as a FIRST Tech Challenge team, our mission should always be to learn.”