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The nine members of the high school’s FTC (First Tech Challenge) robotics team, Flaming Phoenix, competed in the FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, MO from April 26 to April 29.

The team comprises of juniors Christina Ammon, Kaelyn Gaza, Austin Hwa, Matthew Caputo, sophomore Justin Warner, freshman Rachel Folmar, and CFPMS students Matthew Farr, Ansh Abbaraju, and Brandon Tsai.

FIRST robotics is an organization that provides kids the opportunity to learn about and build robots. Team member Justin Warner has been involved in robotics for seven years, saying, “It’s an incredible program. I’ve met so many new people and learned so many skills I wouldn’t have been able to without FIRST.”

The program focuses on core values like gracious professionalism and public speaking, engineering, and teamworking skills. In FTC, teams build 18” by 18” robots that must complete a specific set of challenges. These robots compete against each other in a set of highly-competitive matches to declare a winner. Flaming Phoenix has competed for the past four years.

Programmer Austin Hwa recalls, “[In] the past couple of years…we didn’t move on very far due to part failures and static discharge.”

This year, however, the phoenixes truly rose from the ashes of previous defeat. The team began the season with an impressive showing at the Oxford Qualifier, earning third place, the Inspire Award, and competing on the winning alliance.

The Inspire Award, the highest ranking award, is given to teams that exemplify all of the values of FIRST and qualify for all award categories. From there, the team qualified for the state-level competition.

Soon after, they captained the winning alliance at the Delaware State Championship, earning a spot at the Super Regionals. With their best record yet, the team won seven out of nine matches at the tournament, finishing in fifth place, and competing as one of the semifinal alliance captains.

The team also received the second place design award, clinching its spot at the World Championship in St. Louis.

One hundred twenty four teams from over 10 different countries competed at the St. Louis championship for a shot at world domination.

After a week of soaring victories and close defeats, the Phoenixes finished the competition with a record of four and nine, leaving them in the middle of the pack—35th out of the 64 teams in their division.

Hwa recalls, “I think overall we did really well at Worlds. The competition was pretty tough…It’s awesome to finish the season as the 35th team out of the 5,300 in the world.”

The trip ended on a high note as the team went on to win a nomination for the PTC Design Award, one of only five teams to do so. Out of the more than 5,000 FTC teams worldwide, only 128 attended the St. Louis Championship, less than five percent.

Qualifying for the championship alone was a great achievement for the team, but winning the Design nomination placed the team’s robot design in the top tenth percent of all teams worldwide.

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