MANCHESTER, NH — Due to technical difficulties, the Cruisin’ Crusaders Team 238 didn’t get to show off their robot during a school-wide assembly on Wednesday. Their machine, affectionately nicknamed “Tumbler, after the agile Batmobile featured in the Batman Dark Knight series, wasn’t going anywhere, said Timothy Dukeshire.
Working with his teammates, Dukeshire tried his best to get the Tumbler to do its thing, but after a tough three-days of competition at the FIRST Robotics meet in North Carolina the previous weekend, the Tumbler was on the temporarily disabled list.
But that was OK. The machine had done what it needed to do when the pressure was on, and after more than 20 years-worth of students competing in the robotic trenches, Memorial High Team 238 finally brought home its first-ever championship banner. They won the North Carolina District contest, toppling 23 other teams from North Carolina and Virginia, in the three-day event.
Faculty advisor Brian Foote explained that the team’s robot suffered some serious damage during competition, and there just wasn’t enough time to get it up and running in time for Wednesday’s assembly. But they would have it back in competitive shape for the next district meet, coming up in a few weeks.
Although the crowd of students was audibly disappointed, school principal Arthur Adamakos told them he would have the robot motor through the cafeteria during lunchtime, if it would make them happy.
Adamakos also pointed out that it was about 20 years ago that Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Robotics, held the first-ever competition in Memorial High School’s gymnasium. Since then, the organization has grown into an international competition that inspires students to strive for excellence in engineering and science pursuits, from the classroom to college and beyond.
Teams participating in the FIRST Stronghold Challenge – this year’s international theme — were challenged with building and programming industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game, during which teams used their robots to weaken, attack, and capture the other team’s tower.
During several rounds of competition, the Cruisin’ Crusaders finished day one in second place, fell to third during play on day two, but advanced into the quarter- and semi-final rounds before capturing the title, in the final round.
Memorial team member Uri-Jaun Hall, a senior, said this is his first year with the FIRST team.
“I really didn’t even know about the team until my junior year,” said Hall, who worked on the software for the team’s robot. He’s planning to go to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall to study computer science.
Mike Fitzell, a senior mentor for the team, said he couldn’t be prouder of the team’s accomplishments — and he’s seen a lot of competition, in his 14 years with the Memorial team.
He got started when his kids were students at the high school. They have both since graduated from college and work in the tech industry.
“My daughter got me into this, and I’ve tried to stop, but I can’t,” says Fitzell. “I love it.”
Even though Tumbler didn’t tumble for the student body, the team members got to unfurl their championship banner and take a “walk of champions” around the gym, as Adamakos queued up, “We are the Champions,” by Queen.
“Let’s hear it for them,” said Adamakos, as the students cheered and clapped them in a victory lap around the gymnasium.
Next stop for the Crusin’ Crusaders is the Boston District Tournament in April 1-3.
You can follow the Crusin’ Crusaders on Facebook.
You’re one click away! Sign up for our free eNewsletter and never miss another thing