Led by math teacher and robotics club sponsor Katie Allen, junior Tommy Filla and sophomores Christian Strong and Vince Turner demonstrated what their robot, Thorondor, could do.
“We’re here to talk to adults in the business community about For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) and explain our role in it,” said Allen as the students set up their table. “It also gives the team members a chance to practice their networking and public speaking skills. They get to interact with people from organizations throughout St. Louis.”
During the event, Boeing bused many of its employees from various buildings in and Berkeley so they could participate and view the variety of tables and booths.
After the students settled behind a table, they displayed some of the hardware and honors they earned from previous FIRST competitions. Using a laptop computer, control board and a pair of oversized joysticks, Filla and Turner activated and manipulated Thorondor. People watched as the robot moved across the carpet, scooping up basketballs from the floor and shooting them, one at a time, into a plastic bucket Strong held while standing several feet away.
“It’s another chance to show off FIRST and everything that robotics is about,” said Filla. He plans to major in either computer science or engineering at the Missouri University for Science and Technology in Rolla.
“My college plans are to hopefully go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Howard University or Texas A&M. I want to major in mechanical engineering,” said Strong.
While several people stopped at their table or to admire the robot, one man wanted to know how accurate Thorondor is. He asked the students if he took the bucket and sat several feet away from the robot, would it shoot every basketball to him. Strong replied that in theory, yes, but in reality, variables such as air temperature and density affect the balls’ paths and the trajectories could change.
Susie Mathieu, one of FIRST’s national board of directors, stopped by the Hazelwood Central table.
“I worked for the St. Louis Blues for 20 years and I never felt like I made a difference there; I never had a aha moment,” she said. “Watching this group, I had aha moments every day. You guys are the best-kept secret in North County.”