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Mason H.S. Robotics Teams Heads to Nationals

roboticsTwelve George Mason High School sophomores, juniors and seniors will represent Mason’s 20-person robotics team at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Competition Championship today through Saturday at the Georgia Dome Altanta. More than 10,000 young people will compete with 500 robots on six fields, while teams meet and work in the pits.

 

robotics

MASON H.S. robotics team competes at the Virginia regional competition last month. (Photo: Arthur W. Pierson)

 

Twelve George Mason High School sophomores, juniors and seniors will represent Mason’s 20-person robotics team at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Competition Championship today through Saturday at the Georgia Dome Altanta. More than 10,000 young people will compete with 500 robots on six fields, while teams meet and work in the pits.

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Mason High’s Team 1418, otherwise known as “Vae Victus,” will be one of 10 Virginia teams competing at FIRST’s international championship for the first time since 2008, when Mason won the Chesapeake, Va. Regional Championship.

Team Sponsor John Ballou, a fine and performing arts teacher at Mason, told the News-Press Tuesday that the opposition slated for this year’s competition already looks challenging. But on top of raising $25,000 through corporate donations and fundraisers at Flippin’ Pizza and the Falls Church farmer’s market, the team’s been doing their homework.

“We’ve been watching videos of the competition we are facing, anything we can find on YouTube. There’s going to be a lot of sophisticated competition,” said Ballou, who added the students finally found the best way to secure a camera on the front of their robot this past Monday to help it steer better.

Mason will be grouped with 85 other teams, 42 of which they’ve already identified as previous first-place winners. However, making the first-place alliance as a top winner at the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition Virginia Regional last month, Ballou’s confident the students can compete despite their nerves.

“I think they’re pretty positive heading into Thursday. They got a little nervous when they saw how good competition at nationals would be, but there’s something about being on the field where things transform. They have what it takes to play well, and they’re eager,” he said.

Just before going on spring break, George Mason H.S. team members snagged the gold medal at its second regional competition at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. Winning goals were scored by Mason seniors Pachu Chembukave, Johanna Ballou, Mathew Rollo and David Kutchma, with credit given to the winch system on their robot.

Team 1418 also received two “Gracious Professionalism” awards this season – one from Virginia Commonwealth University at the Virginia regional and another from FIRST at the Washington, D.C. regional. There, they led the second-place alliance, catapulting them to the state regional.

Ballou said the whole team has been instrumental to its success this season.

“First of all, I’m really pleased with the programmers and drivers, who’ve been going out of their way to help other teams. And our pit crew is first-rate. They’ve been able to solve every one of our emergency repairs,” he said.

The students were scheduled to fly to Atlanta early Wednesday morning, and the competition kicked off today  with judging, practice and qualification rounds. The finals rounds will be held Saturday, April 17, with closing ceremonies at 4 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome, Ballou remains impressed with this season’s performances.

“I love the way these guys handle pressure and are able to stay focused, always looking for the next way to improve their what doing.”

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