In The Beginning
The South Portland Robotics Team began in 1995 with 25 students, 3 teachers and 4 engineers from National Semiconductor. US First was only in its 6th year and our Team 58 number was assigned. Our low number lets other teams know we have been here since the early years. We are proud that our first year’s performance earned a Rookie of the Year award.
By 1997 we hired our coach and found classroom space at the High School. Five parents also joined the team as mentors to help the students build self-confidence and life skills through science education. One female student earned a scholarship to Worchester Institute of Technology as a result of her work with Robotics.
In 1998 the competition was held in Hartford, CT and 35 students participated in the
building of the robot. Student fundraisers reinforced teamwork and work ethic
to our students. We began to reach out to the community by demonstrating the
robot to the public at the Maine Mall. Happily, we placed 3rd in New England at Hartford.
By 2000, forty students had joined the team to learn about Robotics including 2 middle school students and a Cape Elizabeth high schooler. Parent volunteers formed a Booster organization to help coordinate the fundraising and planning. As expected of engineers, our bottle drives were micromanaged. Each vehicle driver was given a map of a city neighborhood. He/she was expected to completely canvas the area without overlapping any area not on the map. High profits were yielded, as predicted. In addition to the First competition, the students attended the Maine State Science Fair, and the Technology Conference at the University of Southern Maine.
The complexity of the robots steadily increased. By 2001 we expanded our use of pneumatics and the train drive was more developed than ever. Redundant drive mechanisms were designed to enhance the robots traction. The team developed a highly advanced method of profiling other teams. This strengthened our ability to create effective strategies with alliances. The team’s resources expanded to include computers and PDAs. Our engineers, teachers and parent volunteers never ran out of things to do! Every team member honed problem solving skills in an environment of cooperation. The enthusiasm and excitement of the competition in New Haven, CT made all the work of the build cycle worthwhile. In March of 2003, The South Portland Riot Crew placed 1st at the Manchester, NH BAE Regional Event! and qualified for nationals. The team also won the Motorola Quality Award. The trip to Atlanta, GA in April of 2004 was a momentous reward for the team. The positive energy and advanced science ideas that brought students from around the world made life-long memories for the crew. Several students who were inspired by their experiences headed to college for engineering degrees.
Each year brings improvements in the team’s planning and execution of the competition. Students are more involved in actual design and building than ever before. Brainstorming sessions that evaluate a young student’s ideas along side a professional engineer’s teaches everyone that good science is exciting and anything is possible. Computer programming skills are now an integral part of the robot design with the introduction of autonomous mode in competition. Fundraising is a steady constant through bottle drives and our gratitude to Fairchild Semiconductor as a sponsor is at an all time high. For the 2005 competition in Manchester, NH, 24 students, 2 teachers, 4 engineers and many parents will match their best efforts against the premier thinkers and most motivated teams in the nation. We look forward to great results!