Robotics Team Wins FIRST Robotics Competition

FIRST Robotics team at the competition
March 11, 2019

The SJA Robotics team won the FIRST Robotics district competition in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The team members are, left to right, faculty advisor Jim Baker, Colin White ’22, Erik Kong ’20, Willow Hartwell ’20, Katie Nueharth ’19, Jack Luna ’19, Colin Barney ’21, Lucas Glenn ’20, Hunter LeBlanc ’20, Zachary Fucci ’19, Andrew Berrian ’20, Luke McCarthy ’19, Jared Killian ’22, Rueben Moses ’21, Chase Elliott ’21, Taylor Sartwell ’19, and Haley Chen ’22.

The St. Johnsbury Academy Robotics Team “Tech Storm” and the Red Alliance defeated 35 teams from across New England to win the FIRST Robotics New England Regional District Competition in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.


Tech Storm and it’s Red Alliance partners “Air Strike” from Newport, Rhode Island, and “Aluminum Falcons” from Groton, Connecticut joined forces to sweep the Blue Alliance 2-0 in the best of three finals. The Red Alliance won the first match of the finals 84-62 and clinched victory 79-69 in the second match.


The FIRST Robotics website describes the program as, “the hardest fun you’ll ever have…The annual programs culminate in an international robotics competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path.” This year’s competition is based on a game called Destination Deep Space: “In Destination Deep Space, presented by The Boeing Company, we join two competing alliances collecting samples on Planet Primus. Unpredictable terrain and weather patterns make remote robot operation essential to their mission on the planet. With only 2:30 until liftoff, the alliances must gather as many cargo pods as possible and prepare their spaceships before the next sandstorm arrives.” All of this is accomplished using robots team members build at their schools with the kits provided by FIRST and additional parts manufactured by the students and their coaches. The robots are programmed using JAVA and serve as a practical application of students’ Programming JAVA and AP Computer Science courses.


Key to the SJA team’s preparation is its access to the Academy’s Gregory N. Sweeny Applied Engineering Center. Students design many of the robot’s parts using 3-D computer-aided design software; the designs are then converted using computer-aided machining software and then the required parts are manufactured using the school’s CNC machine. Students participate fully in designing and machining the parts and gain expertise in all steps of the process.


Robotics team advisor Jim Baker said, “After a rocky start to the robotics event, Tech Storm rallied to earn their way to the 17th place qualifying team out of 38 teams. During final alliance selection, the number one qualified team selected Tech Storm to be their third alliance partner to compete in the elimination rounds. Throughout the elimination rounds, this alliance went on to win all six matches in a row leading to the district event win! Our senior drive team of Luke McCarthy (driver’s coach), Zach Fucci, Katie Nueharth, and Jack Luna performed outstandingly.”


Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett said, “Congratulations to our FIRST Robotics team! We talk a lot about grit and teamwork in our athletic programs, and we talk a lot about perseverance and problem solving in our academic programs. This team of engineers put all of those traits together to pull out an amazing victory in a very demanding competition. We are so proud of them and their coaches. This is real work application of high-level learning.  It doesn’t get much better than this!”

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