In response to incredible interest from students and parents, we started our FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team in the spring of 2012 with a handful of student volunteers. The Kell High School Robotics Team graciously agreed to mentor us through the summer and show us the mechanical parts, control systems, electrical systems, and code bases of some of their previous FRC robots from the 2011 and 2012 competitions. Over the course of the fall of 2012, we continued to work with veteran teams to expand our skill set. We also recruited heavily, growing the team to about twenty dedicated students.
In January 2013, we embarked upon our own build journey as part of the 2013 FRC challenge, "Ultimate Ascent." The build period lasted for 45 days, ending in late February. We then competed in two regional competitions in March, one in Duluth and one in New Orleans. In "Ultimate Ascent," the robots on a team worked together to shoot Frisbees into ten-foot-high goals and climb jungle gym-style pyramids for extra points, all in the space of a frenetic two-minute match. There was even an "autonomous period" in the match where the robots had to act on their own without human operators. The second year of our team was all about growth in the program. Our student participation expanded, and we worked together to face the “Aerial Assist” challenge, centered around passing and shooting an exercise ball. During these first two years, we took on extensive research in engineering, programming and computer-aided design. In six short weeks, our students gained valuable knowledge in prototyping and building, from cutting large pieces of metal and wood to form the robot and its frame, to grinding down small collars to cover the drive shaft of a motor.
The highlight of our young team’s career so far, however, was earning the Rookie All-Star award at the Bayou Regional in New Orleans during the 2013 season, awarded to the best overall first-year FRC team at a competition in terms of technical achievement, service and future potential. This allowed us to compete in the prestigious National FIRST competition in St. Louis in April of 2013. We learned a lot of technical skills in our first two years, from computer-aided design to the safe and efficient use of tools. We also learned that so much of the competition is not about the robot itself, but the people on your team and how effectively they work together with each other, with other teams and with the community at large.
As interest in the team expanded, we started an FTC team for many of our younger students to gain experience before stepping up to the FRC competitions. In the first two years of existence, our FTC program garnered multiple awards. At the same time, the FRC team was part of the State Runner-Up alliance for FIRST Stronghold (2016).
For the 2017 season, Steamworks, the FRC team was not only highly successful at the state competition but was also able to obtain a spot to compete at the World Championships in Houston, Texas. The team had the second-highest rating of any Georgia team competing and finished 6th in their division. This allowed them to pick their own alliance at the World Championships for the first time in team history!
One of the principal values of FIRST is "Gracious Professionalism," a term that implies not only technical excellence but character excellence, a willingness to help others achieve greatness rather than withhold it for yourself. This is perfectly in line with our mission at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School, and we look forward to many more years of gracious professionalism and engineering achievement.