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SEASON RECAP: South Kent Robotics Qualifies, Competes in State Championship

The South Kent School Cardinals were back at it again for the winter season. This time, it was the resilient, adaptable, tenacious robotics team who came together and made a name for themselves in the state of Connecticut.

South Kent competed at three major tournaments against both private and public schools including Loomis Chaffee School, Greenwich Academy, Canterbury School, Canton High School, Rockville High School, Greens Farms Academy, Avon Old Farms, Fairfield College Prep, Chase Collegiate School, Putnam Science Academy, and more.

All events were part of the Connecticut First Tech Challenge (CTFTC), a robotics program working to build a better world by involving high school students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to their website, “FTC is about teaching students the value of hard work, innovation, and creativity. It goes beyond the competition by teaching teenagers the importance of working together, sharing ideas and treating each other with respect and dignity.”


Preparation and Challenges

Before jumping into competitions, the South Kent School Robotics team needed to think about which design would be the most efficient to complete the challenges ahead. “After we compared several designs, we wanted the final one to lift the boxes and stack them to fit in the lines and rows,” explained fourth former Yiwen Yin ’20. “We decided to use the string and pulley system.” The team used the 3D printer in the School’s “maker space” to build tiny wheels for the robot. Yin added that the team struggled to get these to work as intended and chose to use small metal poles to pull up the boxes. After some trial-and-error, the Cardinals were finally ready to take their robot to the course.

During the competitions, the Cardinals ran into some issues like losing connection to the robot and dysfunctioning pulleys. The team worked together to find creative solutions to technical problems, such as utilizing the robot itself to push the boxes instead of the pulleys when the original plan failed. With these challenges, some of their successes surprised even them. “I really enjoyed that time brainstorming and talking to teachers or Oliver [Widiasana] about my own ideas. We needed to make the ideas come true, and after finishing them, I would feel proud of myself and the whole team,” Yin said.


The First Competition: Gathering of the Goats

January 20, 2018

Five South Kent Cardinals competed in the CTFTC Gathering of the Goats Qualifier in Danbury: pit crewmen Lucas D’Alessio ’20 and John Gleason ’20, scouting crewman Justin Kim ’20, arm operator Zhuo “Prince” Niu ’20, team captain Oliver Widiasana ’19, and driver Yiwen Yin ’20.

“The first tournament was more of a trial period for the robot,” coach Kyle Greenberg said. “The night before was the first time the guys actually got to drive the robot with the arm working.” The Cardinals were feeling nervous looking at the fierce competition. With that in mind, the competition itself went better than they could have hoped. The Cardinals came in first place for the first three matches, which sparked curiosity, excitement, and hope in the underdog team.

With a 15 out of 27 finish, their stellar performance early on got the attention of Canterbury School, who picked the Cardinals to partner with them in the semifinals. Although they lost in the first round, the success they had seen and experience in the field encouraged them to work hard for the next competition. “The guys pushed hard over the next week to rebuild part of the robot and spent three evenings a week afterward practicing driving and operating the arm,” Greenberg added.

 

Tournament Two: Central Connecticut Qualifier

February 3, 2017

The second competition was the CTFTC Central Connecticut Qualifier hosted by the American School for the Deaf. Widiasana was again at the helm and was joined by Niu and Yin, alongside Zhenhao “Howard” Dong ’19 as an additional driver. “This competition went very well overall. We won three out of five matches for the day and ended up 12th out of 27,” Greenberg recalled. “We were picked by the first seeded team for the finals because of how consistent the team was throughout the day. We came in second for the finals round, but unfortunately the team that picked us as a partner was disqualified due to their robot going out of bounds.” Still, the Cardinals did so well that they qualified for the regional tournament.

 

CTFTC Gator Bowl State Championship

February 17, 2018

Team Cardinal traveled to Greenwich Academy for the CT Regional tournament in mid-February. “The guys did really well,” Coach Greenberg said. Once again, D’Alessio, Dong, Gleason, Niu, Widiasana, and Yin formed a formidable team. With a number of “powerhouse” teams in attendance, the matches were tough. Some teams were scoring over 200 points by the first half of the day. The South Kent Cardinals were able to rise to the challenge and place a respectable 15th out of 27 at this event. “Everyone just enjoyed it,” Yin said.


Connection and Collaboration Through Learning

South Kent had an impressive robotics season this year and held their own among many top-level schools. But beyond the competition, the Cardinals learned the value of working together with their own peers as well as others. “The main reason I feel good about robotics is the ability to come into contact with new people and new things,” Yin said. “During the competitions, we could look around and communicate with other teams, and through this, we could learn from their robots and improve ours afterward. In addition, I made some friends who also fell in love with robotics.” And that is all Coach Greenberg could ask for: “I couldn't be happier or prouder of the guys; they did an amazing job this year.”

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