JFK robotics team headed to FIRST 2015 Championships in St. Louis

By Joseph Stymeist, Career Technical Education Coordinator

John F. Kennedy High School’s robotics team is headed to the 2015 FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis next month — the first SCUSD robotics team to ever make it to the coveted competition.

JFK’s wild card selection was announced by judges at the conclusion of the team’s successful showing at the Inland Empire Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Rancho Mirage on February 28.

The Kennedy team — plus teams from School of Engineering and Sciences, Rosemont and C.K. McClatchy — can be witnessed in action at the Sacramento Regional event at the UC Davis ARC Pavilion March 19 – 21.

Treat yourself to the spectacle of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in action and see the bright future in technological achievement. There is a nominal fee for parking, but admission to the event is free.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is an organization whose mission is to inspire youth to become future science and technology leaders. If you have read some of my previous articles regarding FIRST, you will recall that SCUSD teams have been competing in these events since 2007.

The Kennedy robotics team, mentored by teacher Robert Greene, performed very well at Inland Empire Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

JFK advanced through the quarter and semi-finals, and secured the second place team captain position. This earned them the privilege to choose two other teams to form their three-team alliance for the final rounds of competition. The finals consist of two alliances competing with each another in a best two-out-of-three match competition. Having lost the first round and then coming back with a perfect performance to win the second round, JFK’s alliance team gave the standing-room-only crowd an exciting third and final round to enjoy. Although their alliance fell short of winning that third round, JFK’s team took home honors for Second Place Silver Medalist, the Industrial Safety Award, and the coveted Excellence in Engineering Award. 

The Industrial Safety Award honors the team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards. The JFK team was judged on the quality of their safety manual, informative safety presentation, and helpful safety videos. This is the second year in a row that JFK Robotics has earned the Safety Award.

According to FIRST, the Excellence in Engineering Award celebrates an elegant and advantageous machine feature. JFK’s technical drawings, which were bound in a book containing details documenting the design process, allowed the judges to see “inside” the machine, and prompted them to reward JFK students for their excellence in the design and execution of their student-built robot.

Nearing the end of the awards ceremony, the master of ceremonies announced the team names that would be going to the World Championships held in St. Louis, Missouri. Since the three teams on the winning alliance are automatically selected, everyone in the audience knew which three teams would be going. After the last team was named, there was a surprise announcement. Because two of the winning alliance teams had pre-qualified for the championship, two wild card spots became available for the judges to fill. After an excited roar from the audience, JFK Robotics was named as a wild card team.