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VIDEO: Highland robotics team wins at Chesapeake Regional FIRST competition

Friday, Apr. 11 | By Fauquier Times Staff
The Highland Robotics team winning robot, "Wally."
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Team RoboHawk, Highland School’s FIRST robotics team received the “Innovation in Control” award, one of the major awards presented at this year’s Chesapeake Regional FIRST Robotics competition at the University of Maryland.

The award, sponsored by Rockwell Automation, celebrates an innovative control system or application of control components – electrical, mechanical, or software – to provide unique machine functions. Team RoboHawk, comprised of students in grades 8 -12, was singled out for their innovative use of a Raspberry Pi, a secondary computer, to run the robot’s distance finding vision system, for being able to flawlessly create a communication interface between the Raspberry Pi and the main computer, and for successfully using two programming languages, Java and Python, on their robot. They were also singled out for their use of parallel processing software to streamline robot operations.

Completing its 5th season of competition, Team RoboHawk is one of the smaller teams involved in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). It is also one of the very few private schools in the FIRST program. Team RoboHawk has many similarities to a small technology firm with a build team, an electrical team, a programming team, and a business team. While student-driven, each team component is supported by volunteer mentors with professional experience and graduate level degrees in business and marketing, computer programming, and mechanical, electrical, robotic and aerospace engineering.

With a short build season of only six weeks, each season team members design, build and program a robot that can meet a predetermined challenge. This year’s Aerial Assault competition required the team to build and program a robot that could shoot a ball over a 6-foot truss, pass the ball to and from its randomly selected “alliance” robot teammates, and ultimately shoot into a target 7 feet off the ground all while defending against an opposing 3-robot alliance’s efforts. Of the 54 teams competing from across the US and Canada, Team Robohawk finished 19th overall in the on-field competition.

Each year Team Robohawk must raise funds and operate within a limited budget and is grateful for all of its sponsors. This season Team Robohawk’s business team successfully applied for and received a grant from Aerojet Rocketdyne to fund two programming computers. These programming computers were the first for the team. Prior to receiving Aerojet Rocketdyne’s grant, programming team members used their own computers.

All team members learn problem solving skills, team work, and sportsmanship, and are encouraged to show “gracious coopertition” throughout the competition.

For more information about Highland School’s FIRST robotics team please contact, Ms. Cassin Bertke .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

To see our original story about the Highland Robotics team, go to

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