Pinkerton VEX Robotics Ready for Regionals

Dean Ly, a junior from Derry, said the Pinkerton Academy VEX Robotics team has a good chance of going to the World competition this year. “The likelihood is high,” he said as he relaxed with teammates in the Robotics section of the Engineering classrooms.

“Besides,” Ly said with a grin, “I like winning!”

He’s had a lot to like this year, as the school’s teams have snagged win after win in area competitions, culminating in a first-place win at the Regional matches at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord last Saturday. Two Pinkerton teams have qualified to go to the World championships in Louisville, Ky.

Pinkerton had four teams that qualified for the New Hampshire/Vermont meet, and of those four, two have qualified for Worlds. Team 241A won the Design Award and Team 241F won the Driving Skills Award.

Team members are, 241A, Warp Drive, Chris Higgins, Jason Armitage, Captain Alex Mielens, and Bri Roberge; and 241F, Final Frontier, Bernie Suwirjo, Josh Asari, Adrisa Bentanga, captain Alex Griessel, Adam Hayward and Dean Ly.

Senior Nik Krueger from Chester explained that at every competition they’ve attended, at least one Pinkerton team has brought home an award. “Once we brought home five awards,” he said.

That’s as much as you can get, Derry junior Alex Griessel said. And in the past three events, they’ve occupied the top two positions.

From left, Brianna Roberge, Nik Krueger, Alex Griessel, Joshua Asari, Dean Ly and Angeliek Devine are members of the division-leading Pinkerton Academy Robotics team. Photo by Kathleen D. Bailey
From left, Brianna Roberge, Nik Krueger, Alex Griessel, Joshua Asari, Dean Ly and Angeliek Devine are members of the division-leading Pinkerton Academy Robotics team. Photo by Kathleen D. Bailey

They practice twice a week, for three or four hours, and always on the Friday before a competition, Griessel said. Add in good science courses and a spirit of cooperation, and they’ve got a winning formula, he said.

It’s also the culmination of years of work, most recently under Coach Ernie Biron, Krueger said, adding, “The Pinkerton tams have hit their peak. We’ve learned a lot of skills over four years.”

Derry junior Joshua Asari said he’s applying skills he learned in class and over three years with the Robotics program.

There are not a lot of girls on the team, Brianna Roberge, a senior from Chester, said. She estimated they totaled a half dozen out of 40 Robotics members. She was recently named a graduate in BAE Systems’ Women In Technology (WIT) program.

Roberge, who joined the program in her freshman year, said, “I’ve become friends with people I never thought I’d be friends with.” Angeliek Devine, also a WIT grad, said, “This is how we get to apply what we’ve learned in class. It’s a year-long project, and it’s hands-on, which is great.”

This year’s project involves several yellow plastic cylinders, shaped like crayons, which can be stacked within each other. They are called “pegs” in competition terminology. There are also several 8-square-inch plastic cubes with open sides, and the robot’s task is to build a structure seven pegs (6 feet) high and “Score” or place the cubes on it. There are several posts areound the field and the robot is also tasked with scoring cubes on those, the members said.

Griessel said it isn’t as easy as it sounds. “The other robots come in and they try to stop you,” he said.

“It’s both offensive and defensive,” Krueger added.

Griessel said they started off with a basic design and kept tweaking it.

“We tested the chassis over the summer,” Krueger said. They try to incorporate as many sensors as they can, he said.
“Then we build prototypes, simplistic versions to test our theories,” Griessel added.

They admitted to a high-pressure environment at the meets. “There are 100 people watching you,” Griessel said. “You have to perform. You can’t let your nerves get to you.”

For Krieger it’s “exhilarating, a rush.”

There are seven spots available for delegates to the World event, which will be held April 15-18 in Louisville, Ky. That’s six spots for New Hampshire and one for Vermont, Krieger said, and he’s confident that one or more will be secured by Pinkerton teams after the NHTI competition.

And Asari agreed with Ly that, “Winning is really fun!”