NEWS-_RoboticsWhat would prompt a group of teenagers to get out of bed on a frigid Saturday morning to go spend the day in a marginally heated classroom at Duxbury High School?

Robots.

On Jan. 4, Duxbury High School’s Robotics Team gathered to kick off their first official competitive season. The team, made up of 25 students, met in Tech Ed teacher and advisor Matt Files’ classroom from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., reviewing the newly released game manual for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and brainstorming design ideas.

FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded by inventor Dean Kamen, best known for inventing the Segway scooter. Each year, thousands of high school students worldwide design and build robots to compete in the FRC.

When he arrived in Duxbury in 2010, Superintendent Dr. Ben Tantillo was astonished to see that Robotics had not been established as a club at the high school. Cheryl Lewis, head of the science department, said, “Dr. Tantillo asked the science and technology departments to start [a Robotics club]. Myself, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Files took it on.”

In 2011, there were only five students on the team. In 2012, there were 10. In September 2013, a total of 57 students signed up, when interest piqued after a robot built the previous year was displayed at lunch. During the fall, the team met every Monday and Thursday to learn the basics of programming and design, as well as to discuss the general business of fundraising and marketing, both of which are key components of the FRC mission. The team applied for a $6,000 grant from NASA to help with expenses: Duxbury was one of the few rookie teams to receive the grant.

The team’s members include students from all grade levels and have different reasons for becoming involved. Sophomore Conor O’Neil said, “I’ve been into robots since I was kid. Robotics also helps with problem-solving.” Sophomore Jack Ward added, “I’m interested in pursuing an engineering career. Robotics is a great chance to learn more about the engineering process.”

With four months of preparation under their belt, the team transitioned into competition: six weeks to design, build, and debug the robot, and practice the game for the FRC competition. “Robotics has helped me to develop stronger interpersonal communication skills,” said team founder, senior Kevin DiBona.

The competition was announced on Jan. 4. The game is called Aerial Assist, featuring exercise balls two feet in diameter and two goals. Scoring on the ground level goal earns one point, and scoring on the high goal earns ten. Points can also be earned if robots assist other teams in scoring, or prevent other robots from scoring. The FRC’s 93-page game manual describes all the rules and regulations each team’s robot must meet when competing.

Work will continue seven days a week through Feb. 14, when the robot will be boxed up and sealed until competition begins in March. As students build, you can follow their progress through updates in the Clipper, at our WordPress blog (duxburyrobotics. wordpress.com), on Twitter (@ DuxburyRobotics), and Instagram (duxburyrobotics). You can follow progress of teams around the world with the Twit- ter hashtag “#omgrobots.”

The team welcomes and encourages monetary dona- tions from the community. To donate, contact Matt Files at the high school (mfiles@dux- bury.k12.ma.us).