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March 24, 2010 > Local Robotics Team Competes In Silicon Valley Regionals

Local Robotics Team Competes In Silicon Valley Regionals

By Rajiv Samagond

"March Madness" took a different meaning at the San Jose State University this weekend. It was the venue of the Silicon Valley Regional event for the First Robotics Competition (FRC). Team 2489, also known as the Insomniacs, represented Fremont in this competition. More than 40 teams competed, filling up the entire stadium with excited teenagers and cheering parents. The center of their attention was a field filled with six robots about to play this year's FRC game, "Breakaway."

The game closely resembles soccer. The field is comprised of three sections, separated by bumps. The bumps have towers in the middle. To play, robots pass the ball from section to section, and the final robot shoots it into the goal. Two teams of three robots play against each other on this 27' by 54' field.

FRC serves 19,134 teams comprised of more than 212,000 students. They describe their mission as to "inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs." FRC aims to help high school students around the country by exposing them to experiences that "build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership."

Fremont's Team 2489 is one of FRC's newer teams. It is composed of about 25 students working within the Build Division, which constructs the robot and manages procurement of parts as well as strategy, and a Business Division of 15, which manages the financial affairs, business planning, and public relations aspects of the team. Founded in 2008 by Mission San Jose High students, it has grown to encompass students from five Fremont High Schools - Mission San Jose, Kennedy, Washington, American and Irvington. This team, winner of the Rookie Inspiration Award in 2008, has grown fast, doubling since their rookie year. Many judges at the recent Silicon Valley regionals commented on the immense positive change they noticed in comparison to last year. One member of the team credited their success to their organization and member dedication.

Building the robot is no small feat. The build season lasts six weeks, in which they have to design, build program, and test repeatedly. This hard working team works out of a member's garage more than three hours every day during build season, a duration that more than doubles on weekends.

All their hard work led up to the long-awaited Silicon Valley Regionals. This three day event gave teams one day to practice, followed by qualifying matches. At noon on Saturday, the best teams were chosen, and the finals were held in the afternoon. Suspense built as all the teams gathered to cheer on the remaining competitors. Despite the extremely competitive atmosphere, "gracious professionalism" came to life as teams cut across competitive barriers to help each other succeed, even while they competed on the field to defeat each other. In the very final match, a team loaned its direct competitor a missing part.

Sponsors like BAE systems and Google kept attendees busy during breaks with their custom-designed simulation of Breakaway. While our local team did not qualify for the Finals on Saturday, March 20, it was a very positive learning experience for the "Insomniacs." Not only did they learn more about the technical aspects of the competition, but they also had the opportunity to interact with dozens of other Bay area students and formed some lasting friendships.

Despite the disappointing results, all the team leaders and members maintained a positive outlook and repeated the mantra, "Next year we should," as they constantly search for ways to improve and learn. Anne Liu, leader of the build division, was a finalist for the Dean's List, a prestigious award given to team leaders who display extraordinary leadership, commitment to FIRST ideals, expertise, passion, motivation, interest, entrepreneurship, creativity, and effectiveness. Anne exhibited all of these traits to the fullest extent, and was one of two selected out of 92 candidates.

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