The 15 students who joined physics teacher Matt Wilen's new Robotics Club this fall have engineered their way to triumph in their first regional tournament and a trip to the state championship.
The only all-girls team in the 18-team competition, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest finished the FIRST Tech Challenge regional tournament with the top-ranked individual robot and second best alliance. Woodlands also finished in the top three for three awards based on innovation, design, ingenuity, spirit, and enthusiasm.
For taking on challenges well beyond the program, Woodlands brought home the "Inspire Award," FTC Robotic's most prestigious award. It is based on match performance, interviews, the engineering notebook, and consideration for other awards.
"It was a great opportunity to be the only all-girls team. Parents of students on other teams were so excited for us -- they were cheering us on," said co-captain Jennifer Rush.
Co-captain Cora Ives and Bridgett Riverol said they loved it when the entire Woodlands team spontaneously broke into song with every verse of "Don't Stop Believing."
Woodlands Academy's Robotics Team includes: seniors and team co-captains Katelyn Hughes, Ives, and Rush; juniors Emily Bartusiak, Bridget Bourbon, Alexis Gonzalez, Mercedes Jasso, Hayley Lovell, Kiara McKinley, Bridgett Riverol, Emma Rodriguez, and Alexandra Vela; sophomore Dan Lin Huang; freshmen Laura Bartusiak and Gabriela Reid. Physics teacher Matt Wilen is moderator.
The girls designed and built a robot robust enough to push a bowling ball uphill, yet agile enough to pick up racquetballs, place the racquetballs into crates, then stack the crates.
The team members began with a kit that included professional quality software, motors, sensors, game controllers, wireless communications, and metal gears, then built their robots using engineering principles and real-world math and science concepts.
The girls planned their strategies to effectively prepare for an exciting sports model of competition.
Faculty such as Wilen, at work in Woodlands Academy's new state-of-the art Science Center, help inspire in girls the confidence, enthusiasm, and persistence to continue their scientific and STEM interests.
The team now sets its sights on the Illinois FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship on Dec. 10 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, school officials said.