Junior competes in FIRST Robotics World Championship

Audrey Whitfield, Business Manager

Monroe Woodbury recently had a Junior compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, Texas.  Ashok Sathiyamoorthy’s  team calls themselves the “Total and Complete Amateurs”. FIRST Robotics stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and it is an international high school robotics competition. Ashok’s team competes in a specific division of FIRST called First Tech Challenge or FTC.

Ashok qualified for the World Championships with a personal award. This means it’s an award that is given to individuals, not whole teams. Having been nominated by his coach to enter selection for the FIRST Dean’s List Award, he became a Finalist from the New York Excelsior region. This qualified him to go to the world level. Out of all other Dean’s List applicants worldwide, only 160 were selected and invited to the World Championships. The Dean’s List Award is awarded to secondary school students from FIRST robotics. Sathiyamoorthy has been interested in robotics since 2016, when he joined the Central Valley Stem club. In this club, he and his classmates did a variety of STEM projects. These include EV3 Lego robotics, which is a Lego Mindstorms kit that you can connect to a computer and operate. The first robotics competition that Sathiyamoorthy was involved in was with a company called 4H, on team Cyber Stormers. 

In 2017, he began in another league called First Lego League (which is a part of FIRST) with the same team members. Sathiyamoorthy has been doing robotics for six years. 

Each year, teams are given a task that they must make their robot accomplish. “This year, our robot had to be capable of picking up and placing blocks on three height levels of a wobbling platform,” said Sathiyamoorthy. “In addition, the robot had to be capable of crossing over a central obstacle, and fitting through a narrow gap.” 

This was the first year in which his team fully designed and built their robot in computer aided design (CAD). This means using a computer to program the robot to do certain tasks.“We are continuing to improve the robot even though this season ended for us, so that we can learn and improve our designs going forward,” said Sathiyamoorthy. 

There is currently no robotics team at Monroe, so Ashok is part of a community-based team not run through the school. The team practices in their robotics coach’s garage, and because all the members attend different schools, they have a hybrid system to aid in reducing schedule clashes. They generally meet 2 to 3 times a week.

Ashok believes that while there are benefits of being on a community-based team rather than a school team, such as bringing people together from other schools, there are also a lot of challenges. “The community team must find a location, transportation, funding, mentorship, and connections,” said Sathiyamoorthy. This is different for a school-based team whose school will provide bussing and funding. 

This season, Sathiyamoorthy was the second oldest member of the team, and he believes one of his most important responsibilities to the younger members is to be a leader to them.

“I aim to help them learn more about FTC, such as designing, building, and programming the robots. I also want to provide a platform for them to hone the various other skills FIRST is about, like communication, outreach, service, involvement, and cooperation within competition,” said Sathiyamoorthy. “A good leader should bring others up, and that’s what I want to do as well.”

As of now, Sathiyamoorthy plans on studying engineering in college. He is interested in a polytechnic course of study, such as robotics engineering.