Andover’s FIRST Tech Challenge Team Qualifies for Semi-Finals

The FTC team has already connected with the robotics programs of other middle schools.

On January 21, Phillips Academy Robotics Club (PARCacadia), Andover’s FIRST Tech Challenge team (FTC), participated in their first robotics qualifying match at Andover High School. Though a rookie team, PARC Acadia managed to achieve their goals for greater outreach within Andover and  a place in the semi-finals.

In preparation for the competition, PARCacadia split into two teams, hardware and software, with the former creating the robot and the latter programming it to complete the tasks at hand. Jeremy Liao ’24, founding member and co-president of PARCacadia, helped with the hardware aspects. For him, the qualifier was both a learning moment and a cause for celebration. 

“I think the qualifier went really well. There were a couple of aspects of our robot that were not manufactured with the quality that they could have been, and we were very pressed for time leading up to the qualifier. So there were definitely some mistakes, but I think at the qualifier, everybody did the best they could, and we made pretty good placing with what we had,” said Liao.

Abby Andam ’23, board member and the leader of the software section, shared similar sentiments about the time constraint leading up to the qualifier. However, she was happy with the way the recent qualifier panned out. She hopes to create a more inclusive way for newer members to learn about robotics as a whole after this FTC season ends. 

“From a software perspective, we definitely could have had a bit more time, but I think that’s the Andover way of things, where you never have time for anything until the last minute. But, overall, I was really happy that we were able to create something and actually get our robot to function.”

Andam continued, “I think this is a really good start for us. We have a lot of participants this term, [so] we really want to go in having two teams, [novice and advanced], so that we can be all learning and not feeling like [we’re] not good enough to be working with someone more experienced,” said Andam.

One of the groups’ biggest goals is to expand their relationship with the robotics community, both on and off campus. Sarah Barton ’24, who is in charge of this initiative, noted that their team has already found success in introducing the team to the public and described one of her ideas.

“So the point of outreach is to get people interested and get people to know that robotics and FIRST is the thing that exists so that they’ll be inclined to join it and continue, and add to the engineering community. We want to create a group STEM club fair [and] do programs with elementary schoolers and [use] Lego robotics. So we’re trying to fundraise for other STEM groups in local communities,” Barton noted.

Liao added, “[We also] want to reach out to the greater robotics community, [such as] experts in the field who might be willing to give us their knowledge, other kids who are interested in STEM but don’t know where to start, and community members who might not have heard about STEM or specifically robotics and might benefit from STEM education.”

Overall, the team was incredibly satisfied and proud of what they had accomplished, a sentiment that was also echoed by Nicholas Sadnytzky, a mentor for PARCacadia. The qualifier spoke to how far the team had come since they had started, and how much they would be able to achieve going forward.

“The game this past Saturday was fun, engaging, and [PARCacadia], a team that would be considered a rookie team, exceeded my expectations and their expectations. It was encouraging to see. When parts of the robot failed, they came together to repair it, modify it, and continued playing, and they got fifth place. That’s super impressive and all those team members should be proud of themselves,” said Sadnytzky.