Members of the “ROBO Warriors” FIRST robotics team at Henrico High School are gearing up for a regional qualifying contest December 15th that will challenge their teamwork and technical skills. The team participates in FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), a program designed to give students hands-on experience designing and building robots, solving problems and competing in high-energy contests. “I love mechanical engineering, so I wanted a program that would help me explore that and develop the skills that I would need in college,” said Aaron Kane, a senior at Henrico High and a veteran of the ROBO Warriors. “I’ve been building things ever since I could walk.”
Students who participate in FIRST programs can qualify to be considered for nearly $15 million in college scholarships. Was that part of the appeal for Aaron Kane? “Oh, yes!” he says, not missing a beat. Iesha Hawthorne, a Henrico High junior who is team captain this year, was attracted to FIRST Robotics to help sharpen her people skills. “It’s not just about building the robot,” said Hawthorne. “My main focus is communications, fund raising and community service. I’m in it for team building and problem solving skills.”
Since September, the team has been busy crafting a remote controlled robot designed to retrieve plastic rings and hang them on a rack in a timed competition. The game, called “Ring It Up!” is being played this year by FIRST Tech Challenge teams across the nation.
Teams from across the region will gather December 15th at the Central Virginia FTC Qualifier at St. Christopher’s School. Top finishers will win the right to compete at the State Championship in Richmond on March 2, 2013. Statewide, 118 teams compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge.
“We definitely have high expectations for our students,” said Kenaz Greene, an electronics instructor at Henrico High who is lead mentor to the ROBO Warriors. Henrico High serves a diverse population and Greene sees the robotics team as a tool to help students live up to their potential.
“We have students from the West End and from Eastern Henrico…more affluent students and students who don’t have a lot of money. They all come together for one goal, and that’s to be successful and to learn life skills. I think that’s important. I truly believe that anybody can achieve,” said Greene.
If you want to see robots in action: FIRST Tech Challenge Central Virginia Qualifier is free and open to the public.
When: Saturday, December 15, 2012.
Where: St. Christopher’s Lower School Gym
699 Pepper Avenue, Richmond, VA
Competition 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Learn more about FIRST Robotics programs at www.virginiafirst.org
Story and photos by Jim Babb for VirginiaFIRST