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Hamilton Robotics team takes first at St. Louis competition

The Hamilton High School Chargers Robotics team was part of a 3-team alliance that became regional champions March 13 at competition in St. Louis. The Hamilton team also earned first place for the Autodesk Visualization Award for its submission of a 30- second computer animation depicting the Robotics program. The team’s success at the regional event qualifies it to compete in April at national competition in Atlanta.

The Hamilton team traveled to St. Louis to compete with 52 other teams from 14 states in regional competition of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics. A total of 27 regional competitions were scheduled throughout the country to narrow the field of more than 900 teams from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and South America in the world’s largest high school robotics competition.

FIRST Robotics partners professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem through intense competition. The program was established by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen to encourage students to explore careers in science and technology. Each year teams of high school students work closely with engineers, programmers, machinists and other professionals to meet the challenge of a new game put out by FIRST. Hamilton’s team receives funding and engineering support from GE Healthcare, Rockwell Automation, Pentair Water and other donors.

The robots are built from a specific “Kit of Parts” and a detailed set of suppliers. To ensure that teams are on equal footing, all teams simultaneously receive the rules at the start of the competition season and have the same deadline to ship their robots for competition.

The victory in St. Louis came amid a season of challenges for the 4-year-old Hamilton Charger Robotics team, according to Hamilton Robotics Advisor John Budish. Loss of funding, the graduation of 14 team members from last year’s team and fewer available engineering mentors as a result of helping two other districts form rookie teams worked against the 2004 team that shipped its robot Feb. 26 in barely functional condition, Budish said.

Despite the adversity, students and mentors made good decisions and in the 12-hour practice day in St. Louis, they pieced together a functional machine. Their machine finished 15 out of 52 teams in the qualifying matches and the Hamilton team was chosen to work in an alliance with teams from Iowa and Arkansas that won all three levels of final competition.

The team’s first place 30-second animation reflects its vision of the FIRST Robotics Program. The award recognizes excellence in content, creativity and multimedia mastery. It was created by a 4-student team using a program called 3D Studio Max, a powerful tool capable of producing a wide variety of effects.

The Hamilton Charger Robotics team will prepare for a second regional event March 25-27 in Evanston, Ill. Budish said team members are furiously scrambling to raise funds for national competition in April.

People interesting in learning more about the Robotics Program or supporting the Hamilton Chargers team may contact Budish by calling Hamilton High School at (262) 246-6471 voicemail 1467 or e-mailing him at