Bringing Robotics to Junior High

By Bradley Cusnier and Santiago Rodriguez
APR 12, 2017

On Saturday April 1, the Bienes Center became the platform for the second annual Junior Raider Robotics Tournament (JRRT). The event was moderated by Dr. Williams with volunteer students from the Saint Thomas Aquinas’ (STA) robotics program running the show. The robotics students helped to prepare and judge the event. This year’s competition had eight private middle school teams competing for the top spot at JRRT.

At 8:30 a.m., junior robotics teams checked-in to the Bienes Center and were shown to their individual tables. From there, teams revised both the hardware and software portion of their robots, making sure that their robots complied with the needs of the tournament. The Bienes Center became a hub of organized chaos as teams lined up, by the practice course, where they tested out their newly made revisions and encountered new obstacles at every turn of the wheel. The junior robotics teams weren’t on their own; STA robotics students supplied support by each team’s table, checked on their progress and lent a hand if any problems occured.

At around 10:30, students received a proper introduction to the STA robotics teachers, Mrs. Enten and Dr. Williams, as well as Assistant Principal, Dr. Prieto. From there, teams had lunch in the cafeteria as the STA senior robotics team showcased their First Tech Challenge robots and answered students’ questions. Afterwards, the Bienes Center opened its doors again, allowing teams to continue on their revisions before the competition.

At 12 o’clock sharp, everyone gathered in the theater. Teams were called in random order to place their robots in the maze. Judges observed and counted score as robots traversed a plain desert, navigated through a winding corridor, and pushed a colored ring into a target point. Once all teams finished their turn, the scores were calculated and compared, St. Bonaventure Middle School was declared the winner of this tournament. The day brought challenges and suspense; but in the end, everyone had a great time and look forward to competing again next year.