Robotics students at Montini are spending their spring in the winner's circles! The teams have been very busy designing and testing their competitive robots and have brought home three trophies to prove it!
On Friday, April 5th, Montini Technology Director, Mr. Peter Farina traveled with three teams to compete in the 18th annual Joliet Junior College LEGO Robotics competition. Eleven high schools brought multiple teams to this year's event. Teams are given only four hours to design, build, and program robots that can then compete in six different challenges. "Our Bronco Robotics teams were absolutely outstanding winning the first place and third place trophies," said Farina. In the end, it was Montini's 'Gold Team' consisting of students : Myles Marciniak, Alex Reading, John McManus, and Garrick Nielsen who secured the first place trophy. Claiming the third place trophy was the 'Maroon Team' of Max Kramer, Matt Hejny, Jack Grahn, and Billy Cyze. "Our final team of AJ Geraci, Geno Alfano, Frank Conforti, and Luke Marciniak competed well but ended up with a score just outside the medal range," added Farina.
On Saturday, April 13th - it was on to the Museum of Science and Industry to compete (for the second year) in the Argonne National Laboratories Autonomous Vehicle Competition. Teams from ten different high schools designed, built, and programmed vehicles that could drive themselves through a maze-like obstacle course. "Montini's team and vehicle performed incredibly well and won the second place trophy," announced Farina.
The Argonne Autonomous Vehicle Competition is structured and modeled after the engineering design cycle that Argonne engineers and scientists practice - from submitting a project proposal to documenting progress to presenting final product. The prestigious competition consisted of both preliminary and day-of phases. Teams were judged on their engineering design process, vehicle design and performance. "We were required to submit a detailed design and budget for our vehicle back in December," informed Farina. "Our team has been working multiple afternoons and evenings per week since their vehicle components arrived in January!"
Farina explained that the Argonne competition involves a lengthy process which lends to a competition day that was more than five hours long. "Teams had to pass vehicle inspection, had to be interviewed by multiple Argonne scientists and engineers about their vehicle and they had to make a presentation about their vehicle in the rotunda of the museum," he said. "Finally, teams made one last public presentation introducing themselves and describing the work on their vehicle before placing it in the obstacle course!" Farina and his team grew quite anxious knowing that all their months of hard work and efforts came down to just one official timed run in the obstacle course in front of a large crowd.
"Team Captain, Alex Walsh and team members Max Kramer, Billy Cyze, Matt Hejny, Sarah Zimmerman, and Andrew Ernat worked through major setbacks and overcame great odds to achieve a fantastic finish that should make us all proud to be Broncos," said Mr. Farina.
Jobs in the STEM field are the fastest growing careers, and are projected to grow another 17% in the next decade, according to Tech Edvocate. Growing industries will be searching for people who can come up with new and innovative ideas, and be equipped with the knowledge to design and create the technology needed. "In a few years or so, over half of the available jobs will be in the STEM field and a large chunk of the rest will require employees to have some STEM knowledge." (www.thetechedvocate.org).
"Montini Catholic is proud to be able to introduce students to robotics and encourage them to pursue this explosive field of opportunities," said President Jim Segredo. "Robotics competitions challenge our students to combine their creativity with their engineering and technology skills. We are thrilled to be able to send them to these competitions to grow their esteem and confidence in their extraordinary abilities. And bringing home the trophies? Well that's just icing on the cake!"
Mr. Peter Farina (far right) with his 'Gold Team' - winning First Place at the Joliet Junior College LEGO Robotics competition (l to r: Alex Reading, Garrick Nielsen, Luke Marciniak and John McManus)