FARMINGTON — A challenging year didn’t stop Blue Crew 6153 and the team now has international recognition to show for their efforts.

Blue Crew 6153, a robotics team from Foster CTE Center in Farmington was recently named a finalist after finishing in second place in the Rubidium group during a competition held virtually. Seen in 2020 before COVID-19 hit are Blue Crew members Cam Hammond, Robert Holmes, Logan Holmes, Tomas Cundick and mentor Joel Pike. Submitted photo

Blue Crew, a team from Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue Campus has been competing in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition (FRC) program for several years.

In 2016, Blue Crew won the All-Star Rookie Award for the best new team at the FIRST New England District meet in Providence, R.I., on March 25 and 26. The team was also chosen to be part of the meet’s winning alliance.

Each year a differently themed game is presented to FRC participants who design, build and program a robot to perform the required tasks. At competitions, three teams form an alliance that works together to complete as many of those tasks as possible to win matches and move on in the event.

When the coronavirus pandemic became prevalent in the United States in 2020, all competitions were canceled. Infinite Recharge, the 2020 challenge was based on Star Wars.

Blue Crew had built Juggernaut, a robot named after the tanks in Star Wars to compete in state and regional competitions last year.

“We had built an awesome robot last year and didn’t get to compete with it due to COVID restrictions,” team advisor Richard Wilde wrote in an email Thursday, April 22. “FIRST decided because of the inability of teams to compete in person, to do an at Home Challenge Skills competition using the previous years robot.”

FIRST divided 1,532 FRC teams from around the world into 52 groups named after chemical elements. Blue Crew was assigned to the Rubidium group – 29 teams hailing from Brazil, Canada, China and 16 U.S. states.  The Anomaly 3451 from Sanford was also in this group.

Five challenges to test the capabilities of the drive team and robot were set up: Galactic Search, Auto-Nav, Hyperdrive, Interstellar accuracy, and Power Port. Teams would film their robot performing each challenge and submit the video for judging. Teams could submit videos for all five challenges but only the three highest scores would be considered.

Blue Crew chose to submit videos for the latter three events.

“Our robot didn’t have the capability for the first two,” Wilde said in a later phone interview. “In the first one, the robot’s camera was focused for another task eight feet in the air and could never see the floor. With only three scores counting, we concentrated on our best three.”

Blue Crew was the only team among the 29 in the Rubidium group to score a perfect 150 in Power Port.

“The task was to fire as many balls and hit the target as possible in a minute,” Wilde said. “We had it down to a science.”

In the Hyperdrive challenge the driver had to navigate a course as quickly as possible without hitting a boundary cone, he said. The Interstellar Accuracy challenge tests the ability of the robot to hit a target 8.5 feet off the ground from four different distances, he noted.

Each team also had to do an interview. Blue Crew had a phenomenal plan, was working with cameras in digital media to create a desert scene and planned an animated skit using a holographic image of the robot, Wilde said.

“The interview was on Tuesday,” he said. “On Friday we were finishing up when Melissa Williams (Foster CTE Center Director) came in and said we had to leave, they were shutting down school for a week. We had to reconfigure everything, did the interview at home wearing Jawas costumes. We did as much of the skit as possible. They did a really nice interview. I think the judges were impressed.”

Blue Crew finished in second place in the Rubidium group, taking first in Power Port, fifth place in Hyperdrive and sixth place in Interstellar Accuracy. The winning team from Fort Collins, Colorado, had perfect scores in four of the five events.

“I was blown away when I found out we were one of two Maine teams that were either a finalist or won,” Wilde said.

Outliers 5687, a team from Portland was the winner of the Boron group.

While Blue Crew has several members on its roster, the most active are Lucien Hammond, Logan Holmes, Sol Labelle, Luke Brown Jack Cramer, Finn Zimmerschied and Emily Hammond.

Of the 1,280 U. S. teams that competed, Blue Crew was 134th. Of the 76 New England teams that competed, Blue Crew finished 11th.
“I’ve been amazed by these kids,” Wilde said. “They didn’t get a great roll of the dice but they have taken it and rolled with it.”

Comments are not available on this story.