Robotics Competition Programs Students For Success

Manchester Township students (from left) Sarah Smith, Wyatt Cervenak and Sean Becker during a recent competition involving robotics. (Photo courtesy Manchester Schools)

  MANCHESTER – Members of the Township High School’s Robotics Team recently competed in the 2022 International SeaPerch Challenge and found the event both challenging and rewarding.

  They took second place at the 2022 Greater Philadelphia SeaPerch Challenge on April 29 which helped prepare them for a June 4 competition.

  Seniors Sarah Smith, Sean Becker and Wyatt Cervenak, and junior Abena Konadu combined their skills to take home second place in the vehicle performance category at the regional competition in Philadelphia.

   Smith, Becker and Cervenak competed against teams from all over the world in the International Challenge at the University of Maryland. They have each worked together since joining the robotics team in 6th grade at the middle school and they are all now heading to Rowan University to major in engineering.

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  “Based on the challenges my team faced and our history of not coming close to winning, I went into the regional competition with high hopes and low expectations,” Smith said. “The team got a late start on the construction of their robot, starting in early March for the April 29 competition. Our short timeline in combination with a small team made this competition a daunting task, but we dove in head first and tried our best to create a product that worked in the water.

  “Many of the parts used in the build were recycled from previous years’ robots, thus our robot was named SCRAP, and it is a smaller version of the basic seaperch ROV body with an additional hook on the front,” she said.

  “The competition itself was an amazing experience. Though it did not look very special compared to the other robots competing, our SCRAP bot worked almost perfectly for what it was designed to do which was a miracle in itself,” she added.

  Smith said, “as I watched from the poolside while Sean controlled the robot, I noticed that not only were we moving along quickly, but we were the furthest ahead. Though we did not earn all the possible points, we were the first group to finish in our section.”

  “Next was the obstacle course, the easier of the two challenges. Sean was able to maneuver through the hula hoops with relative ease, and we were the first team in our section to finish again. I did not want to get my hopes up too high, but I was very confident that we had placed due to how well the robot performed,” Smith said. “When I heard the announcer call out Manchester Township High School as the second place pool winners, it felt like all of our hard work paid off.”

  The international competition was very soon after the regional, and the team spent many hours working to meet tight deadlines.

Students Wyatt Cervenak, left joins Sean Becker and Sarah Smith. (Photo courtesy Manchester Schools)

  “The event was extremely exciting for me,” Becker said. “Being the first team in Manchester to compete internationally was a huge honor, and I was definitely nervous. I loved having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and spend time with my teammates.

  “The competition itself was nothing we weren’t prepared for, we had everything we needed to succeed, but unfortunately one of our motors stalled and we couldn’t fix it once we started so we finished poorly. That didn’t impede our good time, and the trip was still very worth it, not only the experience but the opportunity to compete internationally,” Becker added.

  Smith noted that when the team arrived in Maryland, “it was breathtaking to see the number of people and robots there, the different designs, and where everyone came from. We talked to people from across and outside the US and talked about all the STEM programs in their schools.”

  “Being able to hear from these people and exchange our knowledge is an experience that I will never forget. The competition itself did not go as well. The vertical motor burnt out, a propeller fell off, and the robot sank very quickly,” she added.

  “Through all this hardship, we persevered and finished the mission and two runs of the obstacle course, collecting as many points as possible. Though we did not perform well, we walked out with our heads held high, proud that we even made it this far,” she added.

  “This experience was a seven-year dream coming to life, and I am so thankful for the school, teachers, and students that made it all possible,” Smith said.

  Robotics Club Advisor Pat White described some of the difficulties that the students faced and overcame. “It was a very stressful year, with competitions being canceled due to COVID and one competition the students were ready for they were not able to compete because we had the wrong kits. These students truly overcame many obstacles and I am so proud of them.”