Robotics Team Heads to States with an Assist from a Former Teammate

Norfolk Academy’s Robotics Team will be heading to the state tournament in Richmond, after a successful finish at a regional qualifier at University of Virginia—an outcome that would not have been possible without some inspired tactical support from a recent NA grad.

The Virginia FIRST Tech Challenge qualifier in Charlottesville was hosted by University of Virginia’s School of Engineering. The prime location and timing of the qualifier meant that it was fully booked almost immediately, and Norfolk Academy’s team, which had already competed in two qualifiers, was boxed out...or so it seemed.

Enter Daniel Prohaska ’18, a former captain of the Bulldog team and a brand-new Wahoo, fortuitously enrolled at the UVA School of Engineering. Hearing about the team’s plight, Prohaska emailed the event coordinator at UVA, asking about the possibility of allowing the NA team to enter the competition. The coordinator created a waiting list for the event...and the NA team immediately hopped on it, along with several other eager teams.

Throughout the day, the team’s robot, entered into all FIRST Tech Challenge competitions as Number 8095, performed well in a field of tough competitors; as a result, the team was a member of the finalist alliance of competition, earning the Bulldogs a berth at the state tournament. As an added bonus, team members also heard the voice of a former teammate on the speakers: Chai Hibbert ’18 was volunteering as one of the emcees at the event.

The Bulldogs also won the Control Award, a coveted trophy which recognizes expertise in programming a robot in its autonomous mode; evaluation for the award includes examination of the team’s notebook and programming diagrams.

Overall, the team has made significant strides over the course of the year, said Brammy Rajakumar ’19, who co-captains the team with Kevin Duan ’19. “We are working in small teams to accomplish tasks. Everyone has their area of expertise.” The team has two junior captains, Nathan Vu ’20 and Kerri Thornton ’20.

Congratulations, Robotics Team, and best of luck at the state tournament!
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