In 2011, a new club was founded at Kennett High School. Demon Robotics, now in its sixth season, welcomes all skill sets, technical or nontechnical, and has more than doubled in membership since its formation. This year, the team is proud to announce that it is headed to the FIRST World Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri, April 26 to 29!
According to its website, “FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.” By developing accessible and innovative programs, the public charity hopes to motivate young people to pursue fields related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Participating in these programs allows students to build not only robots but self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. As FIRST says, it’s about “more than robots”—there is something for everyone on a robotics team.
“Demon Robotics makes Kennett a place where you don’t have to be athletic to go to a championship,” says Molly Hohner, a sophomore at Kennett High School who has been with the program for two years. “With Demon Robotics, our best qualities become the school’s best qualities. This program makes Kennett a place where, no matter what you want to do, you can achieve your dreams. Robotics brings a feeling of achievement to the students who participate and brings students together who may not have otherwise met.” Molly is the team’s secretary and marketing team lead.
All officers and team members of the club are Kennett High School students. This season, the team has 25 student members and 13 adult mentors. This season started off with a first for the team: at their first competition, at Westtown, they finished regular matches in first place, dominated in all the finals matches, and ended in second place. The team was also awarded the Industrial Design Award, sponsored by General Motors, which “celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that effectively addresses the game challenge.”
At the second competition of the regular season, the FIRST Robotics Competition Mid-Atlantic Event at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the team finished first. After the qualification matches, the Demons finished with nine wins and three losses, placing them in third and securing their position as an Alliance Team Captain. Then, in the elimination matches, the team won all their quarter-final and semifinal matches, taking the team to the finals. To win in the finals, an alliance must win two of three matches. After losing their first match, the Demons came back strong to win matches two and three and secured a first-place win for the weekend’s event.
These performances and awards qualified the team to compete at the Mid-Atlantic Regional District Competition at Lehigh University in April. This highly competitive three-day event was another wonderful experience for the team to develop their skills on the field of play, technically, and networking through communications. Although the team came into the event placed fourth, they did not compete in the final rounds. The very last announcement at the end of the weekend’s event, after all the awards and recognitions were presented, was that one team in attendance had secured itself a place at the FIRST FRC World Championships in Saint Louis by its overall performance this season—and that team was team 4342, Demon Robotics!
Once the team had settled down from all the screaming (and some happy tears), there was some serious work to be done. The Worlds would be held eighteen days later, which meant transportation, lodging, logistics, and funding would all need to be sorted in a very short period. Team members were looking forward to another thrilling and fulfilling competition, so everyone got behind the effort, with families, the school, and the community showing support.
Thirteen students, eight mentors, and six additional parents traveled to Saint Louis for the six-day adventure, proudly representing Kennett on the world stage. Out of 400 teams, Demon Robotics played at the same level they had all season. At one point in the competition the team held the high-match score. The students reveled in the extremely high level of play, and enjoyed watching other matches as much as playing in their own as well as talking and networking with other teams.
The trip provided far more opportunities than just the competition: there were speakers and work sessions for students and mentors to attend. Universities that offer FIRST-specific scholarships were on hand in “Scholarship Row,” and hundreds of businesses and organizations that support and offer STEM careers and interests were available to talk with students about their future plans. Teams also attended a Cardinals game. Since so many students forgo their proms for this event, ours included, there was a full “Robo-Prom.”
“It wasn’t until I joined the robotics team that I truly had a chance to explore and figure out what engineering was. I fell in love with working in the shop and solving the problems,” says Sarah Ploener, a junior who has been on the team for three years. She serves as the team’s vice president and as team lead on the Chassis Build and Drive Team. “Every year our knowledge deepens, which is what being on the team is truly about. The success of this season shows us that we are improving and that we are doing what we are meant to do. Sure, receiving our first-place banner was amazing, but the real reward is proving to ourselves and our peers that we can do this.”
The team’s accomplishments this season indicates how far the team has grown in its six years. The entire team, students and mentors alike, are ecstatic about the results. They would like to thank all the people who came out to cheer them on; parents, family members, team alumni, and other Kennett High School students, in addition to the many people near and far who watched the livestream. Without their support and generous contributions from the community, the team would not have been able to experience this season and the successes that came along with it.
Ronan Gorman, a Kennett High School freshman in his first year of the program, says, “Demon Robotics has been a great opportunity for me and I have been very fortunate to have access to the many mechanical ideas, processes, and terms that have shown me what a future in engineering will be like. With the guidance and knowledge of my mentors, I have learned many techniques that ensure certain processes or tasks are completed well and efficiently. It has been a great opportunity to get a head start for my future in engineering.”
Interested in volunteering time, talent, or funding to the program? You can contact the club’s adviser, Mr. Dan Folmar, at Kennett High School, or see the team’s website for more information: www.demonrobotics4342.org.