Naperville and Benet Academy students compete in international robotics competitions

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Earlier this spring, local high school students from Naperville and Benet Academy headed down to Texas to compete in two different international robotics competitions.

Huskie Robotics wins division at FIRST Championship

The 2024 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship was held in Houston from April 17-20.

Huskie Robotics, a group comprised of more than 120 students from Naperville North and Central, teamed up to create a robot for the international competition.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Huskie Robotics captain and Naperville North senior Lara Kotak. “We like to consider ourselves a mid-sized engineering company, so we really pride ourselves on our organization.”

All 600 teams involved in the FIRST Championship were tasked with creating a robot to play a game against the others. The competition’s game was revealed nine weeks ago, and Huskie Robotics worked to create their best machine over two months.

“Our robot is going to collect these foam hoops off the ground, and shoot them into a goal to score points,” said Huskie Robotics captain and Naperville North senior Aayush Modi. “There’s also other objectives, it’s very involved, a lot of strategy, a lot of discussion, a lot of teamwork that goes on.”

At the FIRST Championship, Huskie Robotics finished 6-3-1 in their group, winning the competition’s Johnson division.

“After winning Johnson, we were able to compete in Einstein, which is basically the biggest field,” said Modi. “We competed against the other eight division winners. We unfortunately lost both matches in Einstein, but it was just a great experience in general for our team.”

It was a long road to the division win in Houston, and Huskie Robotics received some help along the way from their teacher-leader Geoffrey Schmit, and several Naperville-area professionals.

“We try to provide guidance, try to keep them safe,” said Schmit. “But they’re the ones that decide how to put something like this together.”

Benet Robotics Team competes in Vex World Championship

A bit over 200 miles south in Dallas, Benet Academy’s Robotics Team took part in the 2024 Vex World Championship from April 25 to May 3. The competition featured roughly 820 teams from around the world.

Benet students created a robot to compete in “Over Under,” a soccer-like game that involves moving green triballs into the opposition’s goal and side.

Unlike the FIRST Championship, this competition took a full school year of planning and preliminary competitions.

“We really got going at the beginning of the school year in August/September, started to building the design and plan,” said Benet Robotics teacher-leader Pat Marshall. “You start competing in October, November, (and) December to try to figure out how your robot is working and to make improvements. The high school championships come around in March, and if you get out of the state championships, then you move on to Vex.”

The group from Benet Robotics finished in the top 15 at the IHSA tournament, enough to qualify for the Vex World Championship in Dallas.

Benet’s 20-person robotics team is split into four different factions. The group that headed down to Texas included senior Carter Ross. Over the school year, the team shuffled through a few design options but eventually, Ross’ group landed a bowling strategy for their robot Copernicus.

“What I mainly did was using this controller here, I would program this button so it goes up and down,” said Ross. “(This) would lower a wing, which you can use a pneumatic for here. So it goes up and down, and then we have another button which will raise the left here. There is a bar on the field that it will need to climb onto at the end of the game for extra points.”

At the Vex World Championship, Benet’s team finished around 320th place, landing them in the top third of competitors.

Benet Academy freshman Joseph Jenkot-De la Rosa joined the robotics team right when he arrived in high school and enjoyed seeing the wide spectrum of designs and strategies at the competition.

“You get to see the different perspectives that people take, even if a lot of the robots and a lot of the theories on how to play the game were very similar, how people took those approaches and took them to their max potential was really intriguing,” said Jenkot-De la Rosa.

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