By Shannon Scandiffio, Nicholas Ayala, Gabriel Rabinowitz
MAR 05, 2017
One of the newest courses at Saint Thomas Aquinas (STA) is Robotics, currently taught by Ms. Diane Enten. The course is comprised of three levels: Robotics 1 whose team name is ElectroSTAtic, Robotics 2 known as RoboRaiders and team Raiderbots is made up of the Robotics 3 students. Brand new to STA this year, the ElectroSTAtic team is designed for beginners. The RoboRaiders team was created for intermediate students and the most advanced students enroll in Raiderbots. While the ElectroSTAtic team is for freshmen only, the RoboRaiders and Raiderbots is a combination of 10th through 12th graders.
One of the course requirements is participation in the First Tech Challenge [FTC]. Each October the students receive a video simulation of the playing field. The video illustrates the types of challenges that the robots will face, such as lifting a yoga ball, shooting wiffle balls, parking on the ramps, and pressing buttons on a beacon that lights up and changes colors. Robotics consists of much more than constructing robots. Aside from the technical content, students must learn to make a video that features the robot, make posters to promote their competitions and maintain an engineering notebook that tracks the detailed progress of creating the robot.
By November the students must have their first prototype ready to challenge all 23 teams in South Florida. After each competition the members return to the robotics lab to refine the robot and prepare to compete again. The teams accumulate points and by the end of the three competitions the team with the most points wins the overall tournament. STA, has come very close to winning first place. In the first competition STA placed eighth, the second competition they placed sixth, and in the last competition STA won second place. With each robotics competition the Raiders’ skills increase, making the potential for first place more likely.