So-Kno Robo, South-Doyle High School’s robotics team, returned from the FIRST Robotics Competition in Houston with a winning robot and an energized perspective to encourage STEM in South Knoxville.
Often referred to as “Worlds,” the FIRST Robotics Competition welcomes over 600 teams from across the globe to compete in a robotics game.
FIRST releases the game guidelines to the participating teams in January, and the teams have until mid-March to design and build their robots before regional competitions begin.
This year, the game called for the robots to move cones from the floor onto poles and inflatable cubes onto wooden boxes. Several teams crafted robots with arms or elevators to lift and place the game pieces, but So-Kno Robo thought outside the box.
“What we figured out really early is that we could be really consistent if we launch it,” said engineering teacher and So-Kno Robo sponsor Kathleen DeVinney.
This spark of ingenuity led the team to win the Creativity Award in their division at Worlds and a nickname around the competition: the Cube Experts.
While the team performed well at the competition, DeVinney’s favorite moment of the trip had nothing to do with robots.
“They have this block party and seeing the kids have so much fun with kids from a completely different team from across the country was a moment like, it’s more than just robots,” she said. “It’s the connections that these kids get to build with these other people that they’ve never met before that are just like them.”
DeVinney hopes that the success of the team invigorates the students and the South Knoxville community around robotics and STEM.
So-Kno Robo has been involved with nearby schools to mentor their LEGO Leagues, an international robotics group for elementary and middle school students. They also attend the schools’ STEM nights to show off their robots to create interest in robotics. The involvement and exposure at an early age will prepare them for robotics when they enter high school, DeVinney said.
She also believes more students at South-Doyle will be inspired by their peers and find an interest in robotics.
“We have a lot of diverse kids here, so this gives them the opportunity that they maybe never would’ve had to get them excited for STEM and engineering and wanting to keep going with it,” DeVinney said.
Watch videos of their FIRST Robotics Competition matches and more information on their season here.