Viera Robotics

The Wingspan, a robotics team representing Viera High School, has some lofty goals for the next school year.

 

There is something good brewing with the Hawk Robotics program.

The team, known as Wingspan, had its most successful season in the four years since it was formed as an after-school program at Viera High despite having a largely new roster of students interested in robotics.

“It was really a group of new people,” Viera freshman Jansen Joss said. “It was almost like starting over again. We had a few seniors who knew a lot and then it was a bunch of new people.”

After not being able to compete in 2020 because of COVID, then having only a virtual event in 2021, the program had dwindled to six members. But as in-person competition returned this year, so did the students as this year’s team had a roster of 57, including three from West Shore.

“We have our seasoned veterans. Most of them are graduating this year,” said Viera teacher Dave Formanek, who is a faculty co-sponsor along with Samantha Latta.

“But it was very much a repeat of our rookie year. As always, they exceeded my expectations. I’m so proud of them.”

Wingspan is affiliated with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a youth robotics foundation aligned and dedicated to providing advanced STEM/STEAM core competency and career-ready job skills.

The team spent 855 combined hours working on operations, finance and manufacturing principles in preparation for two FRC (First Robotics Competition) regional competitions in Orlando and Tallahassee.

At the Tallahassee event, Wingspan was the first pick of a captain’s alliance and reached the quarterfinals.

Additionally, Wingspan was awarded the Safety All-Star Award in Orlando in recognition of how the team kept safety in mind during the competition. The team also received the Entrepreneurship Award at both regional events, which recognizes a team that has developed a comprehensive business plan to define, manage and achieve its ongoing objectives.

This year’s game teams had to prepare for what was called Rapid React.

“Basically, there’s a 9-foot hub in the center and there’s 20 balls — 10 red balls and 10 blue balls — scattered around the field. Your robot has to go around the field and pick up the colored balls that it's assigned,” said Ritvik Varada, a junior at West Shore and the team’s software designer.

“There are two hubs, a lower hub and an upper hub. If you shoot a ball into the upper hub, which is 9 feet high, you get two points. If you shoot one into the lower hub, which is 3 or 4-feet high, you score one point. For the first 15 seconds of the game, it’s called autonomous period so there’s no driver that’s controlling the robot. Your robot has to pick up and score on its own.”

Drivers take over for the next two minutes and in the final 30 seconds, the robot is given the option to climb any one of four rungs ranging in height. That’s quite a challenge, particularly for an inexperienced group.

“This year, our biggest challenge was probably not knowing enough,” Varada said. “At the beginning of the year, we were a completely new team and many of us, we didn’t know too much about robotics. So, I would say our biggest problem was learning how to do more advanced software. We only started doing this near the last three weeks of competition and we were somehow able to pull it off.”

The goal for next year is to qualify for the FIRST championship in Houston.

Team members included: Josiah Ablordeppey; Alex Adams; Sid Antoine; Jozee Banks; Alyssa Blood; Stephen Bolhin; Kent Brooker; Alex Budko (West Shore); Isreal Caballero; Joshua Carrizales; Xander Caruso; Elijah Clark; Melania Currie; Steven Curristan; Brandan Dix; Alexis Dues; Amora Dues; Neil Ghosh; Evan Gill; Evette Goldberg; Violet Goldberg; Isabel Gonzalez Nieves; Stephan Heinzer; Parker Helms; Venus Hera; Rayyan Jamil; Lewis John; Joss; Zachary Knutson; Syman Lada; Josh Light; Ryan Lynch; Alex Martling; Kyra McGowan; Kendyll Merritt; Kayla Orlando; Chris Page; Edward Pawlak; Joshua Pechan; James Peedin; Evan Polacek; Pranav Ponnusamy (West Shore); Ray Reeb; Victoria Reardigan; Aziah Richardson; Sara Schieferdecker; Elijah Shepard; Hayden Stike; Preston Stike; Varada (West Shore); Leevi Varino; Molly Walsh; Samantha Walsh; Marcos Ward; Adiel Zaiden and Danny Zheng.