Brian Williams calls the First Tech Challenge “The Super Bowl of Smarts.” Last year’s FTC world championship opened with an address by Bill Gates. Earlier this year, President Obama attended an FTC regional competition.
Soon the NBC news anchor, Microsoft genius and “education president” may all sing the praises of Staples — at least, the school’s robotics team.
The “Wreckers 577” team obliterated 21 schools from New England, New York and Pennsylvania at last weekend’s tournament at Kingswood Oxford School. The Wreckers defeated all other teams in their division through 5 challenges, then swept the semifinals and finals.
Even more remarkable: Though the team was mentored by a pair of Staples students — Haris Durrani and Timothy Yang — they easily defeated much more well-funded teams, including 2 mentored by MIT faculty.
If you’re unfamiliar with robotics tournaments: Each match of the challenge includes 2 types of play. Autonomous relies on pre-programmed routines; the other is operator-controlled.
Each team completes various tasks. This year they — the robots they built, that is — took batons out of a holder; maneuvered across “mountains,” planks and rough terrain to place the batons in cups on casters; and balanced on a plank with casters.
The regional championship qualifies the Wreckers 577 robotics team for the world championship, set for St. Louis in April. Over 500 teams from 50 countries will compete in the Edward Jone Dome.
Team members include Haris Durrani, Timothy Yang, Alec Solder, Erin Gandelman, Dylan Roncati, Mrinal Kumar and John Solder. Joshua Schwartz provided value time and insights. If they and their robots keep rolling, they may soon field a congratulatory phone call from President Obama.
He calls the Super Bowl winners. He should do the same for the Super Bowl of Smarts.