MUSCATINE, Iowa–For the first time since 2017, Muscatine High School’s Fire Island Robotics team competed in the First Robotics World Championship. A playing field like no other, approximately 20 local students tested their engineering and teamwork skills at a whole new level April 20-23 in Houston, Texas.
Fire Island earned the opportunity to compete in the First Robotics World Championship by winning the Engineering Inspiration Award at the Minnesota 10,000 Lakes Regional in early April. In order for a team to advance, they must earn first or second place at the regional competition or earn a Chairman, Rookie of the Year, or Engineering Inspiration Award. The Engineering Inspiration award honors teams that provide outstanding community outreach. Throughout the year, members of Fire Island Robotics have worked with students at Jefferson Elementary School to utilize their NAO Robot and visited area schools and nursing homes to play interactive games using an Obie projector.
About 10 times the size of the regional competitions Fire Island usually competes in, the World Championship pitted 450 teams from around the world against each other to see who could create and operate their robot most effectively. Teams competed in divisions of 75 teams to work towards the goal of making the finals. Though Fire Island did not make it to the finals this year, they earned 22nd in their division, putting them in about the top third of competitors overall. “I still think we were pretty successful,” said senior Maya Theobald, who has competed with Fire Island for three years.
For senior Emilio Bobay, who has participated on the Fire Island Robotics team for five years, going to the World Championship his senior year gave him a sense of closure and of pride, as he got to help prepare younger students to remain successful in future years. “I enjoyed the fact it was my last year and I got to bring my team to Worlds and teach them the scope of things,” he said.
Ethan Mattes, a junior who has competed with Fire Island Robotics for the past six years, found the World Championship an excellent opportunity to get ideas for how to keep the team competitive in the years to come. “I think we learned a lot about how teams go to Worlds consistently, and we have a lot of members who want to put in a lot of hours,” he observed.
First year Fire Island participants Cesar Garrido and Drake Minder agreed with Ethan that their trip to the World Championship prepared them for future growth. “Since we went to Worlds, I think more people are interested and motivated to stay in it,” stated Cesar.
Drake, who asserted he had, “no doubt,” that Fire Island would return to the World Championship, also pointed out that this motivation will likely translate into summer practices, giving the team an edge for next year’s competition season.
Because a trip to the First Robotics Championship comes with expenses, the team turned to the community to help them defray the costs. The Black Pearl Café decided to pitch in, creating a special Fire Island drink that brought in $2,000 for the team.