Sharon Robotics Team Gets Championship Send-Off

SHARON, Pa. – Students lined the halls at Sharon’s Case Avenue Elementary School on Friday, holding signs and chanting as they waited for the nine members of the Sharon Tiger Techs Robotics Team Black to walk through the hallways.

“I feel good, because all the little kids look up to us because of what we are doing,” said J.J. Litman, a seventh-grade member of the team who treated several of the students to high fives.

J.J. and the other members will travel to Houston, Texas, where next week they will compete in the FIRST World Championship against 100 of the best robotics teams in the world. At the Northwest PA Championships held in January at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pa., the Sharon Tiger Techs received the overall Champion’s Award and the First Place Robot Performance Award.

Seventh-grader Vincent Calla said they started working on their robotics project in the summer. But Naima Allen says the preparation for their success goes back even farther than that.

“We were able to take a trip to Arkansas last year, and it was honestly such a great experience,” said Naima, an eighth-grader on the team. “We were able to interact with so many people, see so many things, so many different kinds of techniques. Honestly, I feel like it gave us a chance to push ourselves and set higher goals for next season, and clearly it has gotten us somewhere.”

The FIRST Lego League organizes the competition. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and the Tiger Tech students know their stuff. While eighth-grader Kate Powell explained the various actions and tasks the three robot mission models built by the students are expected to complete in two minutes and 30 seconds, several other team members readied the robots to demonstrate.

Members of the Sharon Tiger Techs Robotics Team Black high five well-wishers at Case Avenue Elementary School before they leave to compete in the FIRST World Championship in Houston, Texas, next week.

“This year’s theme is called Superpowered, and it’s all about energy,” Kate said. “So our robot has two minutes and 30 seconds, including our transition times, to run autonomously on the field with the programming that we code and all of our attachments that we then build at the beginning of the season. So this is constantly iterated for months just to make sure for competitions like this that it’s as efficient and effective as we can make it.”

Attachments with pneumatics run energy units, lift, carry, push, pull, collect energy units and drop them off. It stops on cue, and the students get bonus points for completing a variety of tasks. The students recalibrate the robot and change the attachments and work to increase their fluency to try to get all 15 tasks completed in the time allotment.

Dave Tomko, the robotics coach, said the students have to work in conjunction during the robot game. “They all have certain roles during the game,” Tomko said.

Not only do the team members compete in robotics, but they also have a project shipped ahead to Houston. Ben Fiscus, an eighth-grade member, said the project was meant to address the strain on the energy grid and make it cheaper to power lights in businesses. They have developed a power pack, which charges during the night when rates are cheaper, and then operates when the business is running during daytime hours. Additionally, the students added solar panels to further increase the amount of energy benefit.

Kate said they have presented the project to the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce and received positive feedback from some businesses that are potential end users and have patented their project. Ben said the students also presented to the people at Penn Northwest, where some expressed interest in investing in the project.

“There are 1 million businesses in Pa., and if you saved $25 with our product that we have for light bulbs, and everything else on it would save $25 million. So that just shows you how much of an impact it could truly have,” Naima said.

Kate added as they make it larger on a commercial scale, it could have even more of an impact.

In addition, the students described 30 outreach projects they have done in the community, mentoring other students and sharing what they do. They are interested not just in becoming better STEM students, but sharing their love of STEM with others throughout the area. They took their winnings from one event and bought a robot, anc donated it to the Farrell Library to be used for a STEM program.

“I know so many of us love this program. Apart from the robotics, we love the core values parts of it,” Kate said. “I know just traveling to Arkansas last year, even though it might not be of such a big scale that Worlds is on, we were still able to meet numerous international teams, and those are experiences that you never forget.”

When Team Black returns, it will celebrate with an open house event for all the Sharon Robotics Team from 6 to 6:30 p.m. April 28, which will include demonstrations of the robots.

Pictured at top: Members of the Sharon Tiger Techs Robotics Team Black are, front row from left, Leah Crytzer, J.J. Litman and Jacob Prelerson; middle row from left, Logan Patek and Kate Powell; and back row from left, Naima Allen, Vincent Calla, Trigg McMahon and Ben Fiscus.

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