Technomancers share passion for robotics
Florence School District 1’s FIRST Robotics team held a FIRST Lego League Day for the younger robotic teams on Feb. 20 at their work space in the Florence Career Center. The purpose of FLL Day was to show the younger students some of their robotic efforts and offer encouragement. FIRST, which stands for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international organization dedicated to raising awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
It provides students with learning opportunities and scholarships for college. Cassie Scully, senior mechanical engineer with Otis Elevator Company, serves as one of the mentors for the Florence FIRST Robotics team, the Technomancers. The team is comprised of students from all three high schools and every year they build a robot to meet a challenge, she said. They also mentor younger students in building Lego robots.
FIRST Robotics program encourages hands on participation for its members, with experiences ranging from welding, electrical wiring, programming, mechanical design, and more, said Scully. The Technomancers have competed in regional competitions since 2005, winning the Palmetto Regionals in 2008 and reaching the semis in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Last weekend, they came in third place in the quarter finals of the Palmetto Regionals, the state competition held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
More than 60 teams were competing for the state title. The high school team members worked every day after school and on weekends for six weeks to build the robot that they took to the state competition hoping to qualify to go to the world championship competition. Normally, the three high school teams meet weekly. For competition the team must build and program robots to perform challenging tasks, such as shooting balls into a castle and crossing obstacles against a field of competitors.
It is a friendly competition, Scully noted, adding that the teams must cooperate with other teams and show alliance with two teams. The goal is for them to build the robot themselves and learn technical savviness, she said. Florence School District 1 provides funding, facilities, and teacher support for the students from the three high schools: South Florence, West Florence and Wilson. Principal Al Bradley of the Florence Career Center offers work space, tools, and equipment needed to develop the students' design, construction and organizational skills.
General Electric has also provided funding and volunteer mentors, along with Otis Elevator. The elementary school teams, at Delmae and North Vista, along with middle school teams at Williams, Moore and Sneed, build LEGO-based robots. “Our goal with FIRST Robotics is to help students build and learn things so they will want a career in science, technology and engineering, stressed Scully. “We want to encourage more teams,” she said, adding “we want to have a team at every school in the district.”
The Technomancers team members are excited and enthusiastic about participating in the FIRST Robotics high school team. “It gives us opportunity to build things, commented Ryan Smithey. “I like building stuff,” added Praful Chunchu. Tina Chen of South Florence High, said “It is fun.” She added that during the competition, the team members interact with members of other teams, including students from other countries, such as Australia, Brazil and Mexico. For instance, she met four Canadians at the Palmetto Competition held in January when the team qualified to compete in the state challenge. She says she is looking forward to meeting other internationals at a competition to be held in Palm Beach, FL, March 30-April 2.