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Rookie RPS Robotics Team Takes First at FIRST Technical Challenge Event

Rookie RPS Robotics Team Takes First at FIRST Technical Challenge Event

The newly formed RPS Robotics Team placed first at the FIRST Tech Challenge New Jersey (FTCNJ) Upper Central League Meet on Sunday, November 6th by winning all six of their matches in a field of 20 teams. As a result, they have earned the ranking of 3rd in New Jersey and 31st countrywide (as of the time of this publication). "Our goal for this year is to learn how to compete and we are still working on it," said Alicia Conroy, technology teacher at Rutgers Prep. Conroy was approached over the summer by three rising seniors at Rutgers Prep–Daniel Achacon '24, Jason Xu '24, and Max Xiong '24–who were interested in forming a robotics team. After visiting other schools that had competitive robotics programs and researching with the students to see what it would take to put such a program together at RPS, she determined that it would be feasible to get the team up and running for the fall.

With Conroy at the helm as coach and the three founding students as team captains, they created an application process for the remaining 12 spots on the RPS Robotics team. In order to be successful, they required a variety of skill sets represented by team members to fill vital roles. These roles include but are not limited to coders, builders, CAD (computer-aided design) designers, spirit committee members who create t-shirt designs and promotional materials, and 3D printer operators who create custom componentry, like the claw used to move pieces around during competition. They even have scouts who go around during the competition to learn about different teams trying to find out their strengths and weaknesses. “Team members have primary roles, but we want everybody pretty much to be able to do all of the roles they're interested in,” said Conroy. “We don't want to pigeonhole people into just one thing.”

As part of the Upper Central League in the FIRST Tech Challenge New Jersey, each competition has the same format, rules, and objectives, allowing teams to learn from previous meets in preparation for the next. In each match, teams are paired up to take on another duo of robots in an effort to control territory by moving objects around the playing field, completing circuits, and placing cones over terminals of different heights. Teams must play defense as well as offense, though, as opposing drivers can reclaim territories and objectives as the match goes on. Each objective has a point value, and when the clock runs out, the team with the most accumulated points wins. As competition day progresses, teams get paired with a different partner for each match, and when all matches have been played, the team with the most wins is declared the winner.

With one win under its belt, the RPS Robotics team has already generated a lot of interest and attention amongst the student body–and not just in the Upper School. “The Monday after the competition the third graders came into the Maker Space,” said Conroy, “and they’re like, ‘What happened with it?’” She’s also already talking with eager eighth graders about what they can do to get on the team next year.

The Argonauts will attend three meets in 2022-2023, with hopes of qualifying for the state tournament in the spring. "We are not sitting back and content with our first win,” said Conroy. “We know we can do better and still have a lot to learn–they are already working on our next meet. What I’m most proud of is what they’ve been able to do so far since the summer. They’ve been able to problem solve–they don’t give up. The Friday before the meet we were here until 6:30 p.m. and one of the wires broke…we’ve hit so many problems but they’ve always met the challenge and always worked towards solving them–nobody gave up, and they just work well together. I look forward to working with them, and I can’t wait for the next meet.”