On Saturday March 9, the Athena’s Warriors, FIRST Robotics Team 3182, set the bar high for high school robotics at the WPI Regional in Worcester, MA. The FIRST Robotics Competition is an international tournament for high school students. A new challenge is revealed every year that encourages students to think outside the box and then design, build, and test a robot in six weeks. These robots are complex, well thought out, and impressive to even a seasoned engineer. This year, the game, “Ultimate Ascent”, involves shooting Frisbees into goals of various heights and climbing a hollow, three-rung pyramid. A full ten feet tall, the pyramid looms over the students’ heads as a symbol of the daunting yet exciting challenge that they face in the game. It encourages all participants to stretch their imaginations and work together to build and program a robot that performs seemingly impossible tasks.
The Athena’s Warriors were created as the first all-girls FIRST Robotics team in Connecticut. The team was designed for girls in the Greater Hartford area and provides experience in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, as females make up only one-third of engineers. Their first year was rough, as it is for most rookie teams, because neither the students nor the mentors had any prior robotics or FIRST experience. After 6 weeks of an exhausting build season, the robot struggled to keep up with seasoned teams. However, completing their rookie season was itself a major team accomplishment and they walked away with the Rookie Inspiration award.
The second year, the team grew in numbers from 9 to 15 girls, and so did their ambition. The second year’s game was a challenge. It involved hanging inner tubes from ten-foot pegs, and creating a “minibot” that was carried in the robot during the game, and then released, grabbing onto a metal pole and climbing ten feet to the top. In this year, the team struggled with creating a design and then fabricating it given the six week time constraint.
However, the team’s third year was a major leap from the first two years. For the first time, Team 3182 was competitive in the basketball-style game that included balancing on sea-saw like bridges. The students created a successful shooter, and had strong balancing skills. This allowed the team to place fifth after the qualification matches and win the judges award at the WPI Regional.
In it’s fourth and current year, the team has made even more dramatic improvements. Athena’s Warriors has made the transition to a co-ed team, increasing to 20 members. In order to be competitive for the challenge, Ultimate Ascent, the team created a Frisbee shooter and designed a mechanism to climb to the top rung of the pyramid. After many unforeseen struggles the Athena’s Warriors were ecstatic when the first seeded team chose them for their alliance after noting their strong defensive skills. After intense elimination rounds Team 3182 won again and again, only stopped by a close ten point call in the final match. The team was a Finalist, a first in the team’s history, and one member, Anna Sklenar, won the Dean’s List Award. This award was created to recognize outstanding students on FRC Teams, who have dedicated time and effort to spreading science and technology to others. Out of the 80 people nominated at the WPI Regional, one boy and one girl were selected.
Not fazed by the close loss, the team continues to make improvements to their robot in the short three weeks before their next competition at the Hartford Convention Center from March 28 to 30. The team strives to win gold in Hartford and reach it’s goal of qualifying for the Championship event in St. Louis after four years of incredible dedication and perseverance. For those interested in seeing this team in action the competition is free to the public and an exciting event for children and adults alike.
Here is the link to the Team 3182 site:
Here is the link to the FIRST Robotics site: