BPHS robotics team fundraising its way to world championship

Members of Broadalbin-Perth High School’s FIRST Tech Challenge team, the Nut Jobs, recently learned that they earned an at-large bid to the competition’s world championship in Detroit, April 25-28. To help fund the trip, team members are holding a series of can and bottle drives.

This week, students at BPHS are participating in a friendly competition between advisory classes to see which class can bring in the most bottles and cans. The team is asking the community to help, too, by dropping off their redeemable cans and bottles during two scheduled bottle drives:

  • Saturday, March 31, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in front of the Margaret Robin Blowers Auditorium at BPHS
  • Sunday, April 8, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Perth campus parking lot

Community members can also drop off their bottles and cans in the marked containers in the lobbies of B-P High School and B-P Intermediate School. All bottles and cans should be secured in plastic bags.

According to the FIRST Championship website, FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students who want to compete head to head using a sports model. Teams design, build, and program their robots to compete on a 12′ X 12′ field, in an alliance format, against
other teams. Robots are built from a reusable platform, powered by Android technology, and programmed using Java or Blockly. Teams, including coaches, mentors, and students, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles, such as rapid prototyping. Awards are given for the competition, as well as community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

The members of the Nut Jobs are senior Brooke McClarren and Tyler Abrams, Devin Becker, Ryan Gardner and Ricky Kaufman. The team is coached by Rob and Jill Becker.

The Nut Jobs began working on their robot in late September, designing it with the 2017-18 problem, “Relic Recovery,” in mind. As team member Devin Becker explained, on the competition field, “the robot has to pick up a little plastic figure that emulates a relic of some sort. The idea is that scientists found an ancient civilization and it’s too dangerous to send people in, so they have to send in robots.”

Through several competitions, team members fine-tuned their strategy to increase their point totals. As the team improved and its reputation grew, higher-ranked teams began choosing the Nut Jobs for their alliances in the semifinal rounds.

“The Albany competition was the crown jewel of our season,” Abrams said. “That’s where we advanced from. We got fourth in the qualifying round, and the top four teams get to choose their alliances. But the number two team picked us because we complemented them perfectly.”

The Nut Jobs earned their spot at the world championship through a raffle after being on the waiting list. According to coach Jill Becker, FIRST prioritizes teams who hadn’t been to the world championship before — and this will be B-P’s first trip there.

In Detroit, the Nut Jobs will participate in four days of competition. Team members say they’re especially looking forward to seeing all of the different teams from around the world – 128 in all – and learn from them. With four of the five team members returning next year, they’re already looking to the future.

“We want to recruit new team members next year,” Gardner said. “We want the program to survive after we graduate.”

During the 2017-18 school year, the Nut Jobs received financial or in-kind support from Automated Dynamics, Motion Industries, Miracle Ear, Jenny Rulison-Fisch State Farm, Personal Coverage Inc., and the VFW. The team also recently won a $500 grant from Stewart’s Holiday Match.

Members of the community interested in making a financial donation toward the team’s trip may send a check payable to Broadalbin-Perth Central School District to 20 Pine Street, Broadalbin, NY 12025, with “Nut Jobs donation” in the memo line.