By Mike Wehrenberg
The Smoky Mountains Regional High School Robotics Competition had an extremely successful event this past weekend, and Oak Ridge High School was one of the three regional winners. Collierville High School outside Memphis won the Rookie All Star award.
Both of these Tennessee high schools will receive an invitation to the world championships at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, where the Rams football team plays. About 50,000 people will be in attendance at the end of April for that competition.
This was our fourth year of competition at the Knoxville Convention Center in a game called Aerial Assist. Thirty-five teams from Tennessee competed, along with 14 teams from the surrounding states of Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It was a fantastic, “graciously professional,” and exciting event, with all the teams representing themselves, their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, and their ability to set and achieve goals in an powerful and emotional way.
Other Tennessee news of note:
- Hardin Valley Academy won the Industrial Safety Award, the Industrial Design award, and one of their mentors, Lonnie Love, won the Woodie Flowers Mentoring award.
- Knoxville Catholic High School won the Excellence in Engineering award.
- Halls High School won the Creativity award.
- Oak Ridge High School also won the Innovation in Control award.
- Collierville High School also won the Highest Rookie Seed award.
- Boyd Buchanan High School from Chattanooga won the Judge’s award and was one of the three finalists at the event.
- White Station High School from Memphis won the Rookie Inspiration award.
A complete listing of the winners and awardees is here.
With the incorporation of TNFIRST LLC as a Tennessee nonprofit this past year, we need all the support and help we can to grow this program and make sure Tennessee stays well-represented in this competition and program. There are more than 68,000 students from more than 2,700 teams across the nation with only 35 teams competing from Tennessee. We need the parents, the teachers, the businesses, the school boards, the education-oriented organizations, and the state legislature to help build the interests and skills of our K-12 students in STEM-related efforts and activities. This program is an effective and very exciting way to get our students engaged in STEM and to help fuel the Drive to 55.
On a somewhat related side note, both Oak Ridge High School and Collierville High School will need additional funding in order to compete in St Louis at the FIRST FRC World Championships.
Wehrenberg is the judge adviser for the Smoky Mountains Regional Robotics Challenge. He is also vice president and general manager of Kendall Electric.
By D. Ray Smith
Oak Ridge High School’s “Wildbot” No. 4265 was among the winners at the Smoky Mountains Regional Robotics Challenge held this past weekend, and the team will now go to St. Louis for the world championship!
For the third year, I have been privileged to be selected as a judge in the Smoky Mountains Regional FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics challenge. Each year, I have seen the creativity, ingenuity, teamwork, and leadership of high school kids grow tremendously. They have six weeks to build from scratch a robot that can handle a specific and difficult challenge and is robust enough to withstand intense physical competition.
Each year, I have seen greater success achieved and at the same time gracious professionalism demonstrated beyond imagination. I can’t say enough about the inherent skills (often untapped in other areas of their lives) these students demonstrate. Developing a winning strategy to them is second nature. Finding ways to help others is constantly being sought by the teams. One team actually helped build a robot for another team at the competition!
Words fail to convey the impact this competition is having on students today and, in my opinion, will have on future generations. You can actually see the final match in a short video I made at the event at this link.
Ray Smith is Y-12 National Security Complex historian and a photographer who frequently documents community events.
Oak Ridge School Board member Angi Agle was also at the FIRST Robotics Smoky Mountain Regionals. She said the Wildbots went undefeated in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, paired with Team 2614 from Morgantown, W.V., and Team 3843 from Hopkinsville, Ky. Agle’s husband Chuck is one of the team’s mentors.