It’s good to be back.
The Albots Robotics Team at Sacred Heart School in Valley Park has earned itself another bid to one of the premier global youth robotics championships.
The successes of Albots — named after St. Albert the Great, a scientist — have earned the team its fourth bid and third trip to the FIRST Championship, to be held April 20-23 in Houston, Texas, where they will compete against more than 100 robotics teams from all over the world. The team qualified for the competition after winning the first-place Champion’s Award in January at the FIRST LEGO League Championship for Eastern Missouri.
Problem-solving and teamwork are two important aspects for the team, which includes sixth- through eighth-graders. They also ascribe to two of the founding principles of the FIRST Robotics Competition: gracious professionalism and a concept called “co-opetition.”
The latter is when “you’re chanting your team on, but you also chant the other team on, too,” said sixth-grader Declan Horvath.
“It’s where you want to do your best but not at the expense of the other team,” said eighth-grader Connor Dunker.
Coach and mentor Beth Hilton said the key is that you don’t want someone to do poorly because they weren’t able to do their best.
“And when everyone does their best, what happens guys?”
“It’s a better competition,” several of them responded.
Gracious professionalism is where there is fierce competition, but there should be mutual gain for all involved, said seventh-grader Sean Letscher. “Everybody gains something from FIRST; maybe it’s new friends or new skills,” he said.
Students are judged on three major components: the robot’s design and how it competes in a two-and-a-half-minute game in which it must complete certain missions; a project in which they solve a real-world problem using robotics; and core values, which includes a surprise team-building activity at the competition.
At a recent practice, brothers Alex and Ryan Mitchell practiced a mission with their robot Charizard, named after a Pokémon character. The robot’s goal was to connect two trucks made out of Legos, pull them over to a bridge, deliver another part made from blue Legos into a circle and then follow the path to push another item over a blue line.
Ryan adjusted the robot’s position while Alex made tweaks to the program on his laptop. “That’s better,” said Ryan, as the two trucks connected and moved along the path.
Being judged on these components shows the fullness of how teams should be working together. It also helps to push students out of their comfort zone, said Sacred Heart teacher Ricky Vise, who also helps coach the team, along with Fran Hanson, coordinator of formation and evangelization at Sacred Heart, Beth Hilton and Hilton’s father, Art Woodward.
“It’s one of the most rewarding and hardest things they will do,” Vise said. “We hope they will gain skills that will take them far.”
“We hope they gain confidence and a better understanding of what opportunities exist,” said Beth Hilton, whose children have participated in the robotics program. “Seeing what they can do independently is great. They build upon their skills and are overcoming challenges. We want them to have fun and see how other teams might do things differently.”
>> St. Albert the Great
St. Albert the Great was a 13th-century German Dominican, Doctor of the Church and scholar.
He was the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German lord of military rank and educated in the liberal arts. Despite fierce family opposition, he entered the Dominican novitiate.
His interests prompted him to write a compendium of all knowledge, including natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics and metaphysics. His explanation of learning took 20 years to complete.
He achieved his goal while serving as an educator at Paris and Cologne, as Dominican provincial, and even as bishop of Regensburg for a short time. He defended the mendicant orders and preached the Crusade in Germany and Bohemia.
St. Albert the Great is the patron of scientists and philosophers.
Watch a video of Connor Dunker of the Albots Robotics Team at Sacred Heart School in Valley Park talking about First Lego League as the Albots prepare for the FIRST Championship, to be held April 20-23 in Houston, Texas. https://stlreview.com/3uGYqJa