Stanwich School Robotics Team Succeeds at “Botball” Robotics Tourney

Keep it simple.

For members of The Stanwich School’s Robotics team, that saying is truth. It proved to be a winning mantra that paid off with a solid eighth place showing during the 2015 New York/New Jersey Botball Tournament in Rahway, NJ, on May 9.

Relying strictly on their technical wizardry, sophomore Aidan Sebold and freshmen Brandon McClean and Henry Hittle managed to exceed their own expectations in their inaugural robotics competition. The team was formed in January under the tutelage of The Stanwich School’s education technologist, Craig Bolotin. Called “Team Spartans,” the trio of C programmers perfected its game plan during its twice weekly morning class time and between two and four weekly afternoon planning lessons.

Explaining their strategy, Aidan Sebold said, “We didn’t go complex, and that helped us. We could go a little more complex next year, and spend some more time in the planning process. That could help us score higher.”

Brandon McClean credited his team’s success to “staying simple.”

To rank the teams, seeding rounds took place before double elimination. After the first of three rounds, Stanwich earned enough points to gain an initial fifth seed spot. After three rounds of holding steady, the team entered the double elimination round seeded sixth out of 20 schools, finishing the day tied for eighth place overall.

“There were a lot of teams there,” said Henry Hittle. “Because this was our first time entering [the competition], we didn’t expect to do as well as we did.”

Unlike many competitions which rely heavily on the team’s coach, Botball relies on the students working together to generate computer-programmed analysis in order to execute its desired effect.

Watch a video clip of the Stanwich School robotics team here.

“There was no adult interaction allowed during the actual competition,” said Jerome Murphy, Head of Upper School at Stanwich. “This required the kids to take ownership of what they were doing. In the end, they displayed good sportsmanship and accomplished a fantastic achievement.”

At the start of the spring season, all 20 teams sent representatives to a two-day workshop and received a kit of components with enough material to build two completely autonomous robots. The mechanical components used in Botball are Lego technic bricks and other metal structural supports as defined by this year’s tournament kit contents.

“The object of the game is to build a robot that will earn the maximum amount of points by collecting and distributing poms or ping pong balls across the board at various locations,” said Mr. Murphy. “The students wrote programs and built the robots to successfully complete the various tasks laid out for them.”

Feeling confident with their computer programming abilities, Team Spartans will return to the Botball Tournament next year. In preparation for the competition and to expand his knowledge, Henry Hittle plans to attend a 5-day workshop this summer held in New Mexico, which will include international students.