BERLIN — After a hard fought victory at the North Carolina Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, the Worcester Beach Bots team is headed to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis, MO next month to compete against teams from across the country and abroad.
For a team that is only in its third year in existence, it’s been a meteoric climb to now have a shot at the main FIRST Championship. Team member Chris Brown said that he is amazed by where the team finds itself now compared to where it began.
“It’s grown a lot. When we started, we were in the teens with the amount of people we had,” he said, reporting the team now has about 60 members.
Every year the team becomes more creative and advanced as well, according to Coach Michele Kosin who affectionately refers to her team, as the “best and brightest at the beach.” For this year’s robot, which was built and programed by students, several improvements were made to make the machine more efficient.
“This year we decided to make our own drive train and that really helped because we were much more mobile than some of the other robots,” said team member Danny Beck, who serves as the Beach Bots’ main programmer.
“You can tell the entire thing is so much more compact … everything is compacted in there, so it’s kind of like we iPhoned everything,” said teammate Gary Qian, “
The new bot has already paid big dividends, helping the team secure a cooperative win with a pair of other teams at the North Carolina Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. Though the machine died at one point in the final round, the team was able to rally, revive their bot and take the win. In addition, the tightknit group also won the 2014 Chrysler Spirit Award in North Carolina for team spirit, which was somewhat bittersweet as a condition of winning the award was that the entire team performs a dance in front of the rest of the tournament competitors, an experience that Kosin jokingly referred to as traumatic.
The regional win qualified the Beach Bots for the main FIRST Championship April 23-26 in St. Louis. It’s a major accomplishment and one that Qian expects will have a huge impact on the team, especially the younger members who will take over when Qian, Beck and several other seniors depart next year.
“Everybody will be able to experience the best of the best. They’ll be able to see the best of the best. They’ll be able to see the best of the best do the best,” he joked.
Team member Owen Dennis said that he’s excited for the Beach Bots to take on the toughest international teams next month and is confident in the robot and strategy that has served the team so well so far.
“This year it’s a lot about teamwork and a lot about passing,” he said.
There is one final hurdle between the Beach Bots and the FIRST Championship and that is the cost of taking the team across the country to compete. Kosin anticipates expenses of about $15,000 including registration and travel and the team is scrambling to find a way to secure the funding in the next 30 days. The students are planning fundraisers including a combination flea market and bake sale the second weekend in April and Kosin is optimistic that parents and businesses in the community will step in to help the Beach Bots make it to Missouri.
One of the first to lend support to the team in this most recent donor drive has been the town of Berlin and the Berlin Police Department. The Beach Bots met with the Town Council Monday night to celebrate the regional victory and talk about what being on the team is like.
Knowing that the kids are under the clock to reach their fundraising goal to compete next month, the mayor told them that the town, specifically the BPD, would like to help.
“We have certain things that we have done in recent years where we budget for supporting youth and youth causes in the community, particularly for experiences they may not otherwise have available to them,” he said.
BPD Chief Arnold Downing presented the team with a $400 after their presentation for use in getting to the FIRST Championship.
For more information on the Beach Bots or to donate to help the team reach the championship in St. Louis, visit www.worcesterbeachbots.org.