Taft's STEM students recently flexed their technological muscle at the 2017 Trinity College International Robot Contest, and the Technology Students Association (TSA) Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS) competition. Tafties scored impressive results at both events, which included a number of first place awards.
Fighting Fire in Hartford
Two teams of Taft students traveled to Hartford, CT, for the annual robotics event at Trinity College. The challenge requires teams to build autonomous robots that can navigate a model home in search of a fire, represented by a burning candle, and then effectively extinguish the flame. The model home is essentially a maze, presenting the robots with obstacles like walls, furniture, and animals. A premium is given for the speed at which the task is accomplished. Additional options may be added that can increase both difficulty and the overall score.
Both teams began building their robots in the fall, and spent a good portion of the winter developing the programming. The robot built by Shasha Alvares '17, Jona Vithoontien '17, and Julia Kashimura '20 succeeded in extinguishing the candle on all five trials, the best a Taft team has ever done. Nonetheless, the field was extraordinarily competitive, and Taft's Team One bowed to teams from China, Israel, and Portugal. Team Two, Chris Pellegrini '20 and Safak Sahin '20, built a robot that was successful on three trials, avery respectable outcome. Teams are also encouraged to prepare presentations that describe the process of developing their robot; Shasha Alvares won first place in her division for her presentation.
The Connecticut chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) honors exceptional robots from Connecticut-based schools; Taft earned one of the 2017 IEEE Outstanding Connecticut Robot awards.
Engineering the Environment
The TSA TEAMS competition is a one-day challenge in which teams of eight students apply math and science knowledge in solving real-world engineering problems. The theme for this year's competition was "Engineering the Environment." There were three parts to the competition: an essay on the development and improvement of the use of renewable energy, to be submitted before the competition;
an 80-question test on topics related to identified scenarios and researched by teams prior to the event; and the construction of a robotic arm that can move objects with precision, using a specific set of materials.
Teams earn both rankings by state on the individual assessments and an overall ranking. There are separate categories for students in grades 9 and 10 and those in grades 11 and 12. Nineteen schools competed in the grades 11 and 12 category from Connecticut, while six state teams competed in grades 9 and 10. Nearly 600 schools from across the nation competed for the overall prize.
"Congratulations are in order," notes Science Teacher Jim Mooney. "The students worked very hard preparing. I would single out the fine work the 9-10 grade team did on their essay. It was extremely well researched, documented, and the writing was excellent. I would also like to single out the clever design the Taft A 11-12 team came up with in the design section. They were able to precisely move their object in just seconds."
Grades 11-12 Competition:
Essay: Taft A and Taft B tied for 7th place
Test: Taft A 5th place; Taft B 6th place
Design: Taft A 1st place; Taft B 3rd place
Overall: Taft A 4th place; Taft B 5th place
Grades 9-10 Competition:
Essay: 1st place
Test: 2nd place
Design: 4th place
Overall: 2nd place
Congratulations to all of the competitors: