Socorro’s own HOT Squad First Lego League team traveled to Houston, Texas for the international FIRST championships, sponsored by The Boeing Company and Qualcomm Inc.
More than 15,000 students on more than 700 teams from 40 countries world wide and an estimated 33,000 supporting attendees descended upon the George R. Brown Convention Center, Minute Maid Park and the Discovery Green Complex.
Students from the ages of 6-18 depending on country age rules went at it on a multitude of courses.
The HOT Squad, composed of Ixchel, Iriana and Ithan Valentino made the trip with their coach and mother Gwen for the family friendly event. Competing in the FLL category, INTO ORBIT, the group failed to place during the WORLDS finals. Gwen was not disappointed as qualifying in a field of more than 40,000 teams from 95 countries that competed during the 2019 regular season is a tall order.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “The main highlight was when they were asked to do the Encore Performance in front of all the teams. Meaning that the judges saw something they liked about the team and wanted everyone to see them work.”
Top honors in the group went to Team IDB TECH-NO-LOGIC from Verona, Italy with Team Club Oreo of Austin, Texas placing second. Of the 10 individual awards given to teams the only American squad given an award was Team No Wais Time from Honolulu, Hawaii for the Innovative Solution Award.
Despite not meddling, the HOT squad had several other memories to take home with them.
Woodie Flowers, an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at M.I.T., has been the name behind the competition’s Flowers award after becoming the first recipient in 1996. This award is given to outstanding adult mentors for all Robotics League teams. During his opening night speech a picture of the HOT Squad was featured as an example of the younger creative minds solving problems.
Another achievement is a fellow qualifying team from New Mexico. Originating from Bloomfield, The Dark Stars were asked to attend two weeks before the event and have been mentored by the HOT Squad over the recent months.
The Dark Stars took home a Judges’ Award, making the Valentino group very proud.
An acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science Technology”, the FIRST robotics league has grown in participation for more than three decades with Good Morning America calling it this sports Super Bowl during an April 20 report by Maggie Rulli. Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas have all declared robotics as an official extra curricular sports activity.
During Saturday night festivities NASA administrator Jim Bridenstein addressed the students.
“Thirty years of First robotics, it gets more impressive every year. I had the opportunity to go out to the NASA Jet Propulsion Center in California. Many were graduates of the FIRST robotics program. Think about this. 10 years ago, they were in your seat. Ten years from now, where will you be? What will you discover?”
As for the HOT Squad, the team will be making the jump by retiring from FLL to the next level by entering FIRST Tech Challenge competition. They will work with members from other teams such as the Coyote Bots, Robinson and Keller Ford in preparation for the next challenge.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) will be holding a championship at New Mexico State University on July 19-20.
The grand prize is a trip to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The HOT Squad hopes to earn the right to make that trip.