By: Ishan Goyal
On March 23, a group of Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) students took first place in a FIRST robotics competition in Sacramento. The team is composed of primary high school students from MSJ, Irvington, American, and Washington. Members were tasked with the challenge of designing and building a washing machine sized robot suitable for competition and programming it to perform certain tasks during matches. Lead by team captain and junior at American High School Ankit Shah, the Insomniacs culminated the tournament by winning the final match and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the World Championships in St. Louis from April 24th – 27th.
FIRST, the organization that holds these tournaments, focuses on giving students the opportunity to experience hands on STEM education. There are three levels of competition, each of which prepares the student with the skills to proceed to the next level while fostering innovation and creativity. Many of the Insomniacs began their journeys in elementary school and have become veterans of the competition. This year’s First Robotics Competition (FRC) challenge is called Ultimate Ascent. The objective of each team alliance is to score as many points as possible by having their robots throw frisbees into scoring goals and ascend a three rung pyramid using claw like mechanisms. The game itself is split into two portions, the autonomous period where the robots act upon previously programmed instructions and the controller operated period where human drivers manipulate the robot to score.
The Insomniacs were given a mere six weeks to build the chassis of their robot before it had to be bagged for competition. In this time, the team of 40 students, under the guidance of Build Lead Arnav Gautam and Business Lead Anita Alem, collaborated to raise funding for the parts and to construct the robot. Sponsors such as Google, Playing and Learning, DeVry University, and F5 Networks helped sponsor the team to cover the $15.00 budget and made the victory possible. When asked what factors built up the team’s victory, Gautam said “I would have to attribute our success to planning early and setting reasonable goals. By coordinating with local organizations and teams, we got a lot of practice time, which helped the programmers and drivers perfect their code and techniques.” “The team has worked very hard, improving the robot consistently over the past couple of years, to be where we are today” says Shah in response to the same question. While some key seniors may be leaving the team this year, the Insomniac’s outreach program, which helps train elementary school kids, ensures that holes in the team will be filled. The team dedicates over 300 hours to volunteer in other FIRST competitions and train future members. The Insomniacs are currently preparing for the Silicon Valley qualifier and are raising registration fees for World Championships.