Members of Robbinsville High School’s robotics team, Nemesis, prepare to hear this year’s theme at a kickoff even Jan. 5, 2019.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Kickoff Jan. 5 marked the start of a new build season for nearly 4,000 FRC teams worldwide. FIRST Robotics strives to bring the competitive spirit to students passionate about STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Math) through inventive challenges.

More than 30 local teams attended the Kickoff at Montgomery High School, including Nemesis from Robbinsville High School.

The day began with students taking advantage of workshops, including optimized fundraising, computer-aided design, bumper design, sensors and the Autodesk Inventor program.

Then, the students gathered as a live broadcast from FIRST headquarters in New Hampshire unveiled this year’s challenge, Destination: Deep Space

“After hearing about previous competitions, I looked forward to my first Kickoff, and couldn’t wait to find out about this year’s challenge,” said Sara Marincas, a Nemesis freshman.

Griffin David, a Nemesis freshman, described his first Kickoff as “an amazing experience that left me with a rush of excitement for the upcoming season.”

Teams build competitive robots in six weeks with limited finances and resources. This year’s game is played with two alliances of three robots each. Each alliance has two rocket ships and a smaller cargo ship. The game begins during a “sandstorm,” where operators are unable to see their robots and must use pre-programmed instructions or vision technology to begin the match. To score points, the robots load their cargo and hatch panel game pieces onto the ships. The teams place balls onto the ship and cover it with a disc to secure it.

After the event, teams were eager to start brainstorming and prototyping their robots.

“As my final build season begins, I can’t wait to see what our strategy team comes up with. This looks like it’s going to be an exciting ride,” said Rahul Sawant, a Nemesis senior.

Nemesis will be competing at Mount Olive on March 9–10, the Central New York Regional March 14–16 and Bensalem March 30–31. All events are free and open to the public.

–Pravallika Palwai