The Present and Future of the BFA Robotics Team

The Present and Future of the BFA Robotics Team

“This team robot is one that would make anyone proud on the field that we’ve shown. They are on track for a bright future. Don’t lose your marbles, but the first place for the Innovate Award goes to team 6731, The Ringers, from St. Albans,” John Cohn (an American Engineer and Scientist who worked at IBM) at the Regional Competition at Champlain Valley Union High School announced. 

On March 19, the BFA robotics team, The Ringers, competed at Champlain Valley Union High School at the annual Vermont FIRST Tech Challenge. They competed against fellow schools from all over Vermont. 

According to the Livestream on YOUTUBE, teams were matched up against each other (on opposite sides of the field shown in the Livestream), with six games against each other, to qualify for their place. After the qualifying round, the top four teams then built alliances to compete in the finals. The winning alliance then moves on to the world championship.  

According to team coach Pete Symula, “Throughout the competition, the teams assisted each other through the concept of gracious professionalism, which is a big concept in the FIRST competitions. 

According to BFA robotics team member Caleb Lulek (‘22), “Though it was a small competition, the BFA team had a blast, whether it was collaborating with other teams to strategize, seeing other robots or preparing our robot for the competition.”

However, according to BFA participant Richard Page (‘22), “Throughout the competition, there were many issues that arose, whether it was a controller connection problem, a battery charging problem, a robot motor not functioning to its fullest or a broken battery.”

In the heat of the competition, Symula said, “This is a normal thing at a robotics competition. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong and that is just another part of the whole experience.” 

Regardless of issues, the BFA robotics team still came out with a couple of wins. They might not have been competition wins, but they received awards that were sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The team picked up first place for the Innovate category and third place for the Design category. 

Since BFA didn’t end up winning the competition itself, the season is over, but that doesn’t mean that the robotics team is over. 

According to member Michael Johnson (‘25), “Currently, the team is composed of mostly seniors and, because of this, the team is starting a recruitment period to try and get anyone who is interested in teamwork, engineering, coding and having fun to join the BFA robotics team.” 

For students who are interested, the team meets every day after school and on Wednesdays from 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in room A116.

According to participant Kate Reilly (‘22) “If you are interested, but don’t have lots of time, you can still come when you can as the team is very flexible about when they meet and how often they need to meet per week.”

Below are messages from former or current team members, as well as coach Symula, on their experience in robotics and why they have been involved in what they consider a fun, engaging and educational team. 

“If you are a senior and are still undecided about joining the team, check out the over $80 million dollars in an

nual scholarships awarded,” Symula said.  He added, “BFA has participated in the robotics competition for ten years.”

According to Isabella Williams (‘22), “I feel that it is a great experience for people who want to go into a STEM career after graduating. Not only can you learn the basics in coding or building, but you also learn how to work with others and how to actually solve [problems].” 

According to Page, “I had a great experience in robotics; it was very exciting to put my redneck ingenuity skills to work.”

Lulek said, “It was an amazing opportunity to participate in FIRST Robotics. I met some great people and hope to keep my long-lasting relationship with them.”

Williams added, “For me, robotics has become a place where I can hang out with my friends and work with my hands. It’s a weird in-between of stressful and fun. It has definitely been an experience I will take with me. And it’s been great on my college transcript!”

If you or a friend are interested in joining the robotics team, look out for an intro email from [email protected] at the beginning of October to join. If you happen to miss the email, go see Mr. Symula in person (A116B) to sign up, even if it is past the first few meetings. 

This article originally appeared in The BFA Mercury.
Photo credit: Quinn Stanley