WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO: MidKnight Inventors place third in FIRST Robotics World Championship

By Siddarth Muchhal, Special Writer
The MidKnight Inventors (FIRST Robotics Team 1923), a robotics team consisting of students from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and South, earned third place along with its alliance at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis in April.
FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization that hosts many competitions and at different age levels, from elementary to high school. The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is for high school students and begins in January when FRC announces the yearly challenge.
Co-founder and current mentor for the MidKnight Inventors, Libby Kamen, describes the schedule for the team.
“The official FIRST Robotics season begins with a six-week robot build season during January and February, and then the team competes in district, regional, and world championship competitions throughout March and April,” Ms. Kamen said.
This year, the FRC challenge was “Recycle Rush,” in which teams had to create robots that would be able to move totes and recycling bins and stack them on top of platforms.
South junior and 2015-16 Build co-captain Rohan Chatterjee details the work of the inventors at the beginning of each season.
“We only had six weeks to build our Robot, MKI:X (MidKnight Inventors: Ten). On Jan. 3, FIRST broadcasted the FRC challenge for this year. We spent the next six weeks designing, building, and testing our robot. During the competition season, we made several improvements and constantly strived for success, often working late into the nights — and our dedication certainly paid off!” Rohan said.
Rohan is the human player for the MidKnight Inventors in competitions.
“As human player this year, my role was to supply the robot with its game pieces: totes through a tote chute. I also threw pool noodles, much like a javelin, 40 feet to score points. Throwing noodles was the only defense aspect of the game this year, because getting a noodle on your opponent’s side of the field would mess with their ability to drive,” he said.
Due to his dedication and commitment to the team, Rohan was nominated for the Dean’s List award. “The Dean’s List award celebrates students for outstanding commitment to FIRST and its ideals, technical expertise, ability to motivate and lead their team, and overall contributions to FIRST programs. I received the Dean’s List Finalist Award at the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship,” he said.
North senior and a Dean’s List Winner at last year’s World Championships, Michael Foley was on the robot drive team for the 2015 season.
“I maneuvered the robot around the field to get it into position,” he said. “ For instance, this year, I would position the robot to scoop up and stack totes, or receive totes through a chute from the human player.”
This season, the MidKnight Inventors participated in two district, two regional, and one world championship competition. Rohan described the team’s qualification path to reach the World Championships.
“We qualified for the championship by winning the Engineering Inspiration Award at New York Tech Valley Regional held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.). We competed for this award against 36 other teams. The Engineering Inspiration award celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school and community,” Rohan said.
Six hundred teams from around the world competed in the tournament, and were split into eight divisions, each named after a famous scientist. Team 1923 were placed in the Curie Division.
“Alliances of three robots played in qualification rounds in each division. Following qualifiers, the eight top teams hand picked partner robots to form the best alliance possible. Elimination rounds determined each division’s winner and our team, along with Team 148, The Robowranglers (From Greenville, Texas), Team 1114, Simbotics (From St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), and Team 900, The Zebracorns (from Durham, North Carolina), came home with a gold medal for the Curie Division, beating 73 other teams in our division for the title,” Rohan said.
“We then advanced to the Einstein field to play against the seven other division winners (to determine a world champion). On Einstein, we placed third out of those eight alliances,” he continued.
Ms. Kamen believes that the success of the team came from those who supported it throughout the season.
“Our team’s success is thanks to an incredible partnership between students, mentors, parent volunteers, and our sponsors. Without our sponsors, which range from the school district’s support to long-standing partnerships with corporations and local businesses, the team would not be able to compete,” she said. “Mentors and parent volunteers get together to help bring this year-round team through its activities. Most of all, our outstanding students are motivated, goal-oriented, and driven to make each season better than the last.”
The MidKnight Inventors already have plans to grow for next year. “(Naturally,) the team wants to return to the World Championship next year (and improve upon our performance). Towards that goal, the team will (continue to) expand its outreach efforts, improve its design and build process, and learn new skills that will improve the competitiveness of our future robots,” Michael said.
For more information on the MidKnight Inventors, visit www.FIRSTrobotics1923.org. 