Columbia High School Robotics Snags 2nd Place in the World

By mark-slade May 4, 2011

CHS Robotics Snags Second Place in the World

The team, just a year old, snags a prestigious prize
It’s official! The Columbia High School Robotics Club, in existence for less than a year, built and programmed a robot that was named second best in the world on Saturday, April 30, 2011.
The robot, designed and built by the CHS 11-member team, under the guidance of CHS physics teacher Allan Tumolillo, won this outstanding title at the 2011 FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. To see dramtic photos of the competition, click here, here, here, and here.
As the New Jersey State Champion, the team was invited to the final competition. Thousands of teams worldwide competed in their home states and countries, but only the 128 best were invited to the St. Louis world championship tournament, a four-day event.
“At the tournament there were approximately 11,000 participants in four divisions and that means there must be over 100,000 kids around the US and overseas in robotics,” said Vincent Frascella, coordinator of FTC Robotics League of NJ. “Three of New Jersey’s six FTC teams came home with awards. That means New Jersey earned 25 percent of the awards. There is a strong sentiment that robotics is one of those tech waves of the future — it is already a wave now.”
Frascella added that the event was attended by a host of tech companies including Boeing and Rockwell Collins along with representatives from the CIA and the US Air Force. “The US military is increasingly dependent on robotics in combat,” Frascella said.
 The best 128 teams were placed into two divisions that battled in seven matches in qualifying rounds. Each qualifying match featured randomly-paired teams that competed against two others. The CHS team was in the “Edison” division. It fought against the “Franklin” division.
At the end of the qualifying round, the CHS team was placed in one of four alliances, four in each division, a total of only 24 teams out of the 128 that started the world competition, and out of the thousands that had originally competed across the US–and around the world.
The CHS alliance won both the quarterfinals and semifinals, obtaining the title of “Edison Division Championship Alliance.”
 The Edison Division champions then squared off against the Franklin Division champions. Of the thousands that had begun the competition, only six teams, including the CHS club, remained.  
The CHS alliance was crowned second best in the world.
 “FIRST [Tech Challenge] is science and technology and a competitive sport all rolled into one,” said CHS sophomore Adam Richardson, team captain and founder. “It was tough getting [the team] started, but we had a lot of fun and we are very excited by our success. We’re ready to do it again next year.”
Other members of the team include Kathleen Pineda, Daniel Kison, Ben Reis, Kyle Robago Banjo, Ivana Thornton, Willem Lefevre, Eric Greene, Josh Greene, Haymant Ramlcissoon and Stowe Hammarberg.
The route to the second-place win was daunting. The CHS team entered the NJ Inaugural Qualifier tournament at Moorestown High School, its first competition, and received the “Innovate Award.”
The award celebrated “a team that not only thinks outside the box, but also has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make its design come to life. Elements of the award included elegant design, robustness, and ‘out of the box’ thinking related to design.” The win qualified the CHS team for the state competition.
Teacher and advisor, Tumolillo, noted, “When we started the season we were told by the FTC organizers that our goal for the first year was to make a working robot. Well, our team accomplished that and more. In our first year, we won the Innovate Award; next, we won the New Jersey State championship, also winning as Alliance Captain; we then prevailed as Division champions and the second-place winner of the world championship.
 “NJ is a tough state for Robotics,” he added. “Six teams represented NJ and three of them got in because they were able to dominate in tournaments in New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. New Jersey is considered one of the top three states in the US for robotics.”
The CHS Club is supported by a grant from the Qualcomm Corporation, the Achieve Foundation, the Cougar Boosters, the District itself, faculty and staff and many, many individuals in the two towns.
For more coverage of the team, click here. To see a hovercraft in action, click here.