Steel Hawks win video contest, receive cash grant

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On December 13, the Steel Hawks received a $5000 cash grant as a result of winning the competition entitled “Engineering Our Future: Next Generation Innovators Envision a Brighter Future,” hosted by the Rockwell Automation. More than 140 FIRST Robotics teams from around the world had to each submit a video answering the question “What could your team engineer that would have a positive impact on your community and our world?” Submissions were then published on the competition’s official website. From November 15 until November 29, the public viewed these videos and voted for one each day. Rockwell Automation awarded $10,000 in grants to teams that earned the highest number of votes, with the first place winner receiving $5000.

The Steel Hawks, who represented THHS in the competition as US FIRST Robotics Team #2601, will use the $5000 to help fund their entrance into the US FIRST Competition in the spring.

Junior Abrianna Reddy explained why the Steel Hawks were in need of this grant.

“We have to pay the [entrance] fee early, and this year we want to enter two competitions, which will cost us $9000 … Some of our sponsors dropped us last year, so we don’t have the same funding we did two years ago.” Although the Steel Hawks had previously held several bake sales in the school lobby, they knew they needed more supporters to raise enough money.

The Steel Hawks’ winning video, titled “A Bulwark for the Brain,” showcased their idea for redesigning the helmet.

On the topic of the team’s inspiration for the video, Priscilla Wong, the team’s mentor, said “[Coach] Heitman mentioned that the NFL were developing some safety football helmets to measure the impact force on players… we thought that it would be a good idea to extend that to other sports as well – bicycling, skiing, skate boarding, etc.”

“We discussed many ideas, from balancing hospital robots to automatic microwave cleaners,” added Robotics programming secretary, junior Neil Chen. “The idea of an impact-alerting helmet was ultimately the product of the team.”

The Steel Hawks reached out to the entire THHS community via email, social media, and classrooms to remind everyone to vote for their video once a day, as stated in the rules of the competition. Alumni, parents, and friends of Harrisites were also encouraged to vote. Throughout the two weeks, as the Robotics team kept the THHS community updated on the scores of the competition, their video amassed a staggering 25,353 votes.

On winning, Neil said “With a roughly 2,000 vote advantage over the team with the next greatest votes, we were fairly confident [we were going to win]. Nonetheless, we were still ecstatic at having won the competition, since $5,000 is no trivial amount… Ultimately, we owe our win to everyone who voted.”

Despite the victory, the team feels that at times the odds were against them. Its two main competitors were teams from Maine and Canada, with the lead team switching several times throughout the duration of the competition. Concerns about cheating  were also raised.

Abrianna recalls, “The main obstacle we faced is that the some of the other teams were cheating by automatically voting, which took us out of the lead.”

According to Robotics member junior Melanie Wong, the team noticed a “weird night pattern” when one team posted 3.4 votes per minute between 2:48 am and 8:30 am one night.

However, Priscilla feels that the main obstacle was “getting votes in” due to “the changing or refining of the official definition of what a valid vote was.”

“I don’t think the sponsors had any idea that voting can be done the way it was,” she said. “Their methods simply did not account for it nor could they reinforce the single vote per person per day rule. So while our team tried to play fair, it was frustrating to see that other teams did not.”

Nonetheless, the team pulled through the difficulties and in a final email to the student body of THHS, the Steel Hawks said they were “grateful for the support [they] received from the entire community and could not have achieved this success without the help [they] received from everyone.”