April 2nd through 10th is National Robotics Week, a time to focus attention on this exciting, interdisciplinary component of computer science. In Maine public schools, robotics comes to life in a variety of ways. From our high school students participating in robotic competitions, down to the youngest elementary student programming robots to follow a sequence, robotics is a grassroots effort that can be found in many schools, some of whom will be spotlighted throughout this week. National Robotics Week, dating back to 2009, has a simple mission – “to inspire students in robotics and STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages.”
This first story highlights the perseverance and ingenuity of The Bucks’ Wrath (Team 6329*), from Bucksport High School (BHS). The idea to form a robotics club was born in a first year “Introduction to Engineering” class, co-taught by teachers John Boynton and Mike Gross back in 2017. Being afforded the opportunity to go to a local competition in 2017, and then the FRC World Championship in St. Louis with the financial support of their school, community, and donors, sparked students’ enthusiasm in robotics to grow. BHS soon added classes about Machining, Engineering, and Computer-Aided Design (CAD), which helped the students develop the knowledge and skills to compete. Donations of a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router and mill from Bucksport graduate, Andrew Silvernail, and his wife, Shelby, helped grow the team’s capacity. Sadly, that initial group of freshmen, now seniors, only enjoyed one strong showing at a competition before the 2020 season was suspended.
The 2021 season was also without in-person competitions, but the Infinite Recharge at Home challenges allowed the team, mostly freshmen and sophomores, to demonstrate their skills in a new way. While working through the challenges of a hybrid school model, the team decided to build a new bot from the ground up. As Team 6329 shared videos of their progress, they could see other teams using their methods, which motivated the team further. By the end of the season, their robot ranked in the top 20 in the world and ranked second in its shooting ability.
The 2022 season finally allowed The Bucks’ Wrath to return to the carpet and compete. In addition to their robot’s skills in competition, the team as also recognized with the Entrepreneurship Award, thanks to a business-minded senior who’s marketing and financial efforts set the team up for future success. The Bucks’ Wrath performed strongly after a lengthy layoff from competition, ending the first day as the top qualifying team and performing well through the playoffs on the second day. An unfortunate turn-of-events saw their three-team alliance lose in the finals. True to their character, the team has continued to work and improve as they head to their second event in Durham, New Hampshire.
Fourteen Maine teams headed down to the NE District Pease ANG Event and Bucksport High School was the smallest of the schools sending a team. Again, they performed well in qualifying (coming in 4th) and were picked second overall for an Alliance captained by Orange Chaos (Team 4564) out of Brewer and the Blue Devils (Team 6324) from Salam, New Hampshire. Their Alliance went all to the way to the finals before falling to a formidable Alliance of B.E.R.T. (Team 133) from Bonny Eagle, Infinite Loop (Team 2648) from Messalonskee and captains The Crushers (Team 238) from Manchester, New Hampshire. Despite the loss, The Buck’s Wrath is currently the top ranked Maine team in the NE District at seven overall. The Buck’s Wrath also walked away with the Excellence in Engineering Award as well for the first time since 2018. Coach John Boynton said, “It is a lot of fun representing a small rural school in Maine against the best New England has to offer.”
If you would like to follow The Bucks’ Wrath, check out their Facebook page or their Youtube channel. To learn more about opportunities for Robotics in Maine schools, check out Robotics Institute of Maine (RIM). For information about computer science in Maine schools, please check out the Maine Department of Education’s Computer Science page. If you have a robotics success story at your school, email email@example.com.
* team numbers are given in order of creation, so The Buck’s Wrath is the 6329th team to become part of FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition).