Robotics team wins three awards in FIRST Robotics competition

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Courtesy of Eli Ramer.

Daria Milovanova staff writer

The robotics Team 1515 ‘MorTorq’ received three awards in the FIRST Robotics Competition on May 13. The team won the Creativity Award for their achievements in design creativity and the Industrial Design Award for successfully designing an efficient machine that met the game’s challenges. Building Specialist and Safety Captain junior Ella Cox’s leadership in the competition earned her the FIRST Dean’s List Award, which recognizes outstanding student leaders. 

“I just felt very happy [upon receiving the awards]. The team this year has gone through a lot,” Robotics Build President senior Eli Katz said. “Our shop is not remodeled at the moment and everything is online. We really can’t give these kids the physical instruction that they deserve and what the team is used to. Seeing how, even online, we can still make it work and not just do good work, but do great work [is] really a great feeling.”

The 2021 FIRST challenge included a special “element,” a chain link, which was something that the competition requested teams incorporate into their design. Many teams designed their robots around a pirate theme, but MorTorq decided to create a firetruck game. Katz initially favored the pirate theme too, but was “very happy that [my teammates] persuaded me against it.”

“The ‘element’ was a chain link, and all the teams said, ‘Oh, chain link, like on an anchor. So let’s do pirates.’ Everyone did the pirate game, but we decided to use the chain as a hoist for the robot on a ladder” Katz said. “At that time it just evolved into climbing a firetruck and then evolved into a firetruck game.”

According to Katz, the team members have demonstrated great dedication through their work ethic and persistent extracurricular contributions. 

“Creating a new time commitment [was a challenge], as well as adjusting to the schedule. Normally, Robotics would meet much more frequently and in-person, but with virtual learning, we had to make sure that all of our lessons were online and every time we met or we met was online,” Katz said. “Everyone on the team basically gave up every Saturday for two months. It’s really incredible that they managed to do this.”

Adjusting to an online learning environment has been a challenge for all members of the team, according to Cox. Specifically, she admires the freshmen Robotics members who overcame the challenges posed by the virus pandemic.

“This year I learned that we have very adaptable team members, especially freshmen,” Cox said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it was for them trying to learn all the content over Zoom and putting in all the hours while not getting the typical benefits of in person robotics season. The leadership group has also been amazing at adapting to online teaching.”

Although MorTorq encountered many challenges throughout the contest and worked in several smaller groups, the team’s approach was resilient and persistent. 

“I’m proud of all the time and effort everyone has put in this year. Teaching and competing in Robotics has been incredibly difficult over Zoom, but I’m incredibly proud of everyone for getting through it and giving it their all,” Cox said. “The thinking and design process was definitely different this year as we split up into groups. I…wanted to focus on designing the most creative game possible. We wanted to introduce completely new challenges to FIRST while including our favorite parts of old games.”

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