St. John’s placed two teams in the top 10 and captured a share of the tournament title back in November when it took on 48 other squads from around the state during the VEX Robotics Competition at North Andover High. It would seem sensible, then, to stay the course. But the Eagles Robotics Team isn’t much for resting on its laurels, and plans to unleash new designs, tactics and techniques for all three of its robots at Framingham’s Walsh Middle School tournament venue on January 20.
"For this competition, we are going in with a completely new robot that we call mk. 2," says Robotics Club President Gavin Garland '18, the hardware captain for the Prep’s Mecha Eagles Team A, which won in North Andover eight weeks ago. "This model allows us to carry around the mobile goal inside the arena and stack cones on it at the same time. I’m really proud of how the hardware turned out. This is by far the most polished and sturdy robot I have seen from any of the SJP teams I have been on. The team is working really well right now, and progress has been fast." For more information on how competition works, check out this story previewing November’s North Andover tournament.
The Framingham tournament marks the second of two chances for Eagles’ robots to qualify for the Southern New England High School VRC Starstruck Championship in March. The goal for the Prep’s two varsity teams on Saturday is for Team A to test the new mk. 2 hardware and software, while still performing well enough to help Mecha Eagles Team B qualify for the Southern New England title meet.
Mecha Eagles Team B (Jack Busa ’18, hardware; Fred Lu ’18, software; Adam Rutledge ’20, driver) acquitted itself well at North Andover with a 5-2 record and a 10th-place finish overall, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. Team A (drivers Jake Duran ’18, Matt Folan ’18; software Chris Jerrett ’18) was unbeaten at North Andover and also captured the tournament’s Design Award for its mk. 1 robot after judges reviewed the Eagles’ Engineering Notebook that charts the development of the robot. Teams that qualify for the Southern New England meet battle for a chance to advance to the 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky next April.
“Our goal this season is to attend Worlds,” says assistant club moderator and computer science teacher Lisa Standring. “That would be a first for the Prep, so that’s what we’re shooting for. Leading up to this second tournament, as is often the case, we’ve had to push back internal, drop-dead dates for completing software and hardware tweaks, but overall, our preparation has been good.”
FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT
The three teams from St. John’s are among 47 squads scheduled to compete at the VEX Robotics Competition in Framingham beginning at 8 am on Saturday. In November, the all-freshman Mecha Eagles Team C earned its first round-robin match win in its first-ever tournament action. Since entering the competitive robotics arena in 2010, the Prep has won more than two dozen trophies in seven seasons, with the eighth currently underway. Nonetheless, team members retain a palpable sense of humility.
“I’m optimistic because we have been able to keep progress up and make really good use of our time,” says Garland. “But, as always, I’m not going into this competition expecting to go undefeated. All the teams have been working hard and we are going into this with experimental hardware and software, so we may not be able to match the results of our last competition.”
This year’s Prep team: Ryan Jermany ’21, Anthony Crivello ’21, Delby Urena ’21, Michael Baraty ’19, Brandon Saad ’20, Gamaliel Aviles ’21, Robotics Club President Gavin Garland ’18, Chris Jerrett ’18, Daniel Dischino ’21, Jacob Duran ’18, Jason Jermany ’19, Fred Lu’18, Henry Fuller ’21, Peter Zarakas ’18, Nick Stearns ’20, Christian DeSimone ’18, Cole Busa ’20, Cameron Pilla ’20, Forrest Dawe ’18, Jack Busa ’18 and Adam Rutledge ’20.
The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is the world’s largest and fastest-growing middle and high school robotics competition. Each year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete year-round in a variety of matches. VEX competition draws a million student competitors populating 20,000 teams across 45 countries.