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Robotics Team Heads to VEX Robotics World Championship

Posted: April 13, 2017

Franklin Road Academy Robotics Team Prepares for First-Ever Trip to World Championship

FRA will participate in the Vex Robotics World Championship next week

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 13, 2016) — For the first time, the Franklin Road Academy robotics team will participate in the Vex Robotics World Championship. The team, consisting of students David Chandler, Conor Ireland, Sydney Malham, and Tennent Grace Smith, will head to Louisville, Kentucky, next week to compete against teams from all over the world – a huge feat for a program in only its third year.

The team has participated and succeeded in multiple competitions this year, and in each competition, the students are learning and building upon what they’ve learned to improve for the next challenge. “In preparation for competitions, we do a lot of research on robots that are successful from around the world, and see what they do that works really well. We try and see how we can do it better, and then we’ll draw it up – draw the drive trains, lifts, and arms separately, so we have a good idea of how we need to build it,” said Ireland, who is the main builder of the robot.

The preparation for worlds in terms of the actual competition are similar; however, there are some differences in the overall preparation. “One difference in the actual competition is that the field is raised. While that may seem minor, it does change the perspective of the robot entirely and how we move it around. A big difference in the overall competition is the networking. We’ve been making business cards, videos, and flash drives to hand out to other top teams. You have to stand out and make yourself known outside of just your robot because there are so many teams from around the world,” Ireland said.

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Another noticeable difference is the possible language barrier, which could be problematic for some schools to communicate with others. Because of the diversity in FRA’s students, the robotics team is bringing two students, one who speaks Spanish and one who speaks Mandarin, to bridge the language gap when needed.

The team is excited to compete in the world competition, and the students are also looking forward to other aspects of the experience as well. “Seeing all of the designs other teams have come up with and how every team has developed throughout the season to change the perspective of the game is going to be interesting,” said David Chandler, the robotics team captain. “The game is changing, so you start out with very little knowledge on how the game will work. Throughout the season, you grow and develop skills that help you to build the optimal robot for this specific game.”

Regardless of the outcome, these students will always be known as the ones who built the robotics program at FRA. “In education, it is often difficult to find truly authentic activities that demonstrate the principles we teach in the classroom; with STEAM activities such as robotics we have found this platform and our students have embraced what started as a small flame and turned it into a raging inferno. Using our Innovation Lab and classes such as our Innovation class, we have put students 100 percent in the driver’s seat of furthering their own education and passions. Contrary to an aged and commonly held dogma, I consider it the greatest achievement when the students have far exceeded their teacher in their understanding, application, and depth of knowledge. This is exactly what we have been able to create at FRA,” said robotics instructor Dr. James Weeks.

With the opening of the 2,000-square-foot Innovation Lab in March, FRA’s lower, middle, and upper school students will now have the use of state-of-the-art equipment, including 3D printers, laser cutter, and robotics arena, to further their education in STEAM. The Innovation Lab will also be home to the Summer Innovation Institute, where MNPS students and teachers have the opportunity to work with FRA students and teachers to learn and hone in on their STEAM crafts.

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Last Updated: April 13, 2017