Latest Competition Goes Swimmingly for the School's Robotics Team

Teenagers are known for procrastinating. But for the Sidwell Friends School robotics team, the last minute may be the best minute.

The School’s two teams, made up of 22 students, participated in the regional Marine Advanced Technology Education competition at Villanova University on May 11-12. The nine students on the veteran team placed third overall, earning them a trip to the international competition. 

The competition has a number of elements — in addition to building a robot that can complete a series of tasks within a 15-minute time limit, they also must adhere to certain technical specifications, create marketing materials, and prepare a presentation about their robot for the judges. In addition to their third-place overall win, the veteran team won the Design Elegance Award and took home third for their marketing display; the rookie team took first for their product presentation and second for their marketing display.

The veteran team “came across more issues than in previous years,” says Darby Thompson who, along with Marty Suresh, is the team’s coach. “They just kept persisting. They were soldering things the day of the competition.”

The last-minute work came because in addition to their success in meeting the competition’s parameters, the team took their project a step further. 

“They decided to try putting the electronics on the robot. It’s much more complicated than poolside electronics,” Darby says. “They also designed the entire frame from scratch and 3-D printed it so they weren’t confined to a shape, like a box or a cube, as they have been in the past.”

Many of the members of the veteran team have been working with Darby — and one another — since their freshman year. “They’ve gotten a lot of experience and they know how to work well together at this point,” she says. “This year the veteran team is particularly driven and competitive. I think they have an extra kick in their drive.”

They’ll carry that kick as one of the 35 teams from all over the world when their robot takes to the water once more in Kingsport, TN  June 20-22.

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