Students bring ingenuity and grit to this year’s competition.
Now in its fourth year, the Crossroads Robotics program comprises Middle School students enrolled in the Robotics Options class and Upper School members of the after-school Robotics Club. Crossroads hosted the season’s first meet on November 12, with 17 schools competing. This "Meet Zero” is essentially a practice run in which points do not count toward the season’s total. Still, the Crossroads Upper School team made a strong showing, taking second and third place.
Robotics competitions are structured around an annual challenge created by FIRST, a nonprofit that supports inclusive, team-based robotics programs in schools and after-school programs. The details of the challenges vary year-to-year, but they always present students with a set of tasks for a robot to complete. Students then work in teams to design and build a robot that can perform the tasks, using coding and mechanical engineering skills.
Senior Jordana Goldstein says, “As a creative person, I’m drawn to robotics because a challenge is offered and you have to find your own unique and efficient solutions.”
Each meet presents teams with an opportunity to test their robot on a playing field as well as to see how other teams have approached design and engineering challenges. Points are awarded based on the completion of tasks such as picking a cone, transporting it, raising it to a specific height and depositing it onto a pole. Between meets, students re-work their robots to improve performance. Through constant problem-solving, collaboration and innovation, robots evolve over the course of the year.
Crossroads Middle School Science Teacher Ed Okun assists Middle School Math Teacher and Interim Dean Collin Hertz ’10 with the program. Ed shares, “Many of these students have been programming on their own for years. To watch how they use the skills they’ve developed, and share their knowledge with each other, is just incredible.”
On a recent field trip to the Avatar XPrize finals, students in the program observed a robotics competition at the highest level. The competition, sponsored by the XPrize Foundation, focused on the development of a robotic system that could transport a human’s senses, actions and presence to a remote location in real time. Eighth grade student Jake Lerner described watching teams from around the world demonstrate their projects, and vie for a share of an $8,000,000 prize pool, as “cool, very cool.”