The Franklin Schools Robotics Team gathered in their practice and work space at the old High School gym on Charles Street Monday night to celebrate their victory at the regional championships. Here are (from left) Connor Shanks, Don Shanks (mentor), Oakley Sthole, Kyle Johnson (mentor), Darryl West, Cindy Mitrovic, Sarah Conner, Grant Scarboro, Clinton Smith, Elizabeth Conner, Coach Liz Burgess, Jatrez Foster, Alex Russell, Madi Busby, Hank Mummert (mentor), and John Neave (mentor). -- Lucy Wallace | Tidewater News
The Franklin Schools Robotics Team gathered in their practice and work space at the old High School gym on Charles Street Monday night to celebrate their victory at the regional championships. Here are (from left) Connor Shanks, Don Shanks (mentor), Oakley Sthole, Kyle Johnson (mentor), Darryl West, Cindy Mitrovic, Sarah Conner, Grant Scarboro, Clinton Smith, Elizabeth Conner, Coach Liz Burgess, Jatrez Foster, Alex Russell, Madi Busby, Hank Mummert (mentor), and John Neave (mentor). -- Lucy Wallace | Tidewater News

Archived Story

Franklin’s Robotics team wins at Regional Competition; moves on to World Championship

Published 11:47am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FRANKLIN—Walking into the old high school gym on Charles Street, you could feel the excitement from the team members, coach and mentors of the Franklin City Schools robotics team. Victory was in the air.

The 11 members of Team 1610, the “Builders of Tomorrow”, just returned from the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Virginia Regional Competition in Richmond and their trophies, medals and banner were on display. The robot they built and used in the competition, however, was wrapped in plastic. It is to be shipped to St. Louis, Mo., for the world championship, where the team will compete in April. Liz Burgess coaches the team.

Franklin’s team was ranked 55th out of 65 teams from Virginia and five other states, Burgess explained. The challenging program is a long process, beginning in January when the assignment for the year’s competition goes out internationally via the internet. The teams have six weeks to build their robot once everybody watches the video to see the challenge,” explained team member Madi Busby, a sophomore at FHS. To see more about the challenge, search YouTube for 2013 Ultimate Accent at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itHNW2OFr4Y

This year’s challenge was to have the robot shoot Frisbees and climb a pyramid. To get started, the team brainstorms. “There are a wide range of ideas and we condense it over the course,” said senior Grant Scarboro. Sophomore Elizabeth Conner added, “There’s a lot of prototyping.” The robots are allowed to weigh 120 pounds, but Builders of Tomorrow’s unit weighed just 94 pounds.

At the end of six weeks, the robot is put into a clear plastic bag until the completion. The team can’t touch it until manipulating it for the challenge.

Elizabeth continued, “Thursday when you get there, you un-bag the robot and you are given practice matches. On Friday there are qualification matches, where you earn points.”

Saturday morning, the top 8 teams pick two other teams to join in to form an alliance for the elimination tournament. Grant explained, “Each pick the team they want on their alliance.” Senior Clinton Smith said the alliances were teams one and eight; three and seven and four and five. “We play until there is a winner,” he said. The Franklin team was the second pick from the third-seeded alliance. Other members of the winning alliance were from Midlothian and Martinsville in Virginia.

The team will now travel to the World Championship in St. Louis, which is set for April 24-27 at the Edward Jones Dome. They are looking for donations to help make the trip, and mentor Kyle Johnson said if they get corporate sponsors, the name of the company will be listed on the team’s website and on the robot itself. Kyle said the team will more than likely take a bus and share the cost with another team.

For the three senior members of “Builders of Tomorrow”, this was their first win. Scarboro enthused, “Darryl, Clinton and I have been on the team since we were freshman and we finally got it. It was like a dream come true!”

The team consists of Elizabeth Conner, sophomore; Oakley Sthole, junior; Madi Busby, sophomore; Cindy Mitrovic, 7th grade; Darryl West, senior; Sarah Conner, 7th grade; Connor Shanks, 8th grade; Grant Scarboro, senior; Clinton Smith, senior; Jatrez Foster, 6th grade; and Dean Alex Russell, 6th grade.

Along with Johnson, other mentors are Don Shanks, Hank Mummert and John Neave. Former mentor, Oscar Babb, recruited the first robotics team in 2005, which included his son, Mills. Both were in the gym Monday night to congratulate the others. Oscar said this year’s team and previous teams have worked hard without the expertise of an engineer. The team hasn’t had an engineer mentor since 2007. “We need someone who can think in 3-D.,” he said. Coach Liz Burgess agreed saying, “We could use an engineer to help fine tune things.” She explained the mentors are there to work with the kids and help with design but don’t do the actual work. “Our mentors are stellar. They work with the kids, training and teaching. It is a great partnership.”

Burgess stressed that the team members put a lot of hard work and dedication in to the entire process. “They are the best! We were ranked 55th and we won it all. They faced a lot of adversity and nobody gave up. They were resilient to the end and they persevered. I am beyond proud.”

“Our seniors went out with a bang,” she added. Burgess said FIRST is a huge international competition. “Just getting invited to the international (tournament) is a big deal,” said Babb. The Franklin team has 11 members. Some of the teams competing at the regional competition had 40 members. At another regional competition in Myrtle Beach two weeks ago, Team “Builders of Tomorrow” made it to the semi-finals, but in Richmond, they won.

Team member Oakley Sthole’s mother Josette Sthole-Hayes said, ”This is a small team – a small group, but because they work so well together, that’s how they achieve their success.”

The “Builders of Tomorrow” have a website and encourages everyone to visit it at www.frc1610.com. A fundraiser planned for May 18, the Robo Regatta, will help the team pay for future projects and competitions.

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