Fitch Robotics appear in multistate competition


By Billy Ludt

bludt@vindy.com

DAYTON

It’s a test of mettle as the best ’bots from four states vie for to qualify for a national competition this weekend at the Miami Valley FIRST Robotics Competition.

“They call it the varsity sport of the mind,” said Fitch Robotics Team lead mentor Rick Zimmerman.

Fitch Robotics qualified 21st out of 62 student teams Friday night, and entered into the final day of competition at the Nutter Center at Wright University on Saturday.

There was no word at press time Saturday night if the team placed and would be headed to Detroit for the FIRST Championship in late April.

“I think we’ll be good,” Senior Hunter Amendolea said. “I think we’re prepared. I think that we have a real chance to place.”

In early January, competitors were given the rules for the competition’s game, which changes yearly.

This year’s game requires robots to transfer boxes onto different switches set at varying heights for two-minutes and 15-seconds. For the first 15 seconds, the robot must act autonomously, and then students will control it the remaining minutes.

“It’s great to see them compete,” Zimmerman said. “Like anything else you see the simple mistakes, and they learn. But it’s always really satisfying.”

Six weeks later, students arrive at the competition with a robot, hopefully, capable of meeting the game’s requirements. Each match is three different teams per side.

“The people you’re with this time may be the people you’re against next time,” Zimmerman said.

Amendolea, who has been with the team for four years, said at this point he and his seasoned teammates don’t need assistance from their mentors as much. Whether it’s repairs done on the sidelines, or constructing the robot, he said the students can usually handle it.

“Something that I’ve learned [from robotics] is that when you encounter a problem in life, or robotics, or school, or anything, there’s usually almost always more than one solution,” he said. “Just because something stops you or something gets in your way, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

Fitch Robotics was founded nine years ago. Every year, the team appears in two robotics competitions.

Its student makeup, Zimmerman said, isn’t solely “brainiacs.” There are students who also participate in speech, band and sports on the team.

“There’s a sense of teamwork, and we do a lot of team building. You learn to cooperate,” Zimmerman said. “My idea might not be that great, but somebody else built on my idea and it worked.”

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