Holding up the 2013 Chairman’s Award banner for The Mount St. Joseph Academy regional champions are: Erin Tiffany ’13, Margaret-Mary Rilling ’13, and Gabriella Henkels ’13. (Photo by John Schmidt, a mentor and the father of Dona Schmidt ’15)

by Sally Cohen

The robotics team at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, the Firebirds, have won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship’s Chairman’s Award for the seventh consecutive year. The Firebirds traveled to Lehigh University on April 11 and competed against 50 teams in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. The Firebirds are currently preparing to compete with their robot at the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis, MO from April 25-27.

Mid-Atlantic Robotics’ games closely resemble sporting events. Each robot competes against others in a game that changes every year. This year’s game is called “Ultimate Ascent” and involves the robots flinging as many Frisbee-like discs as possible into goals of varying point values over a two-minute, 15-second period.

The match begins with a 15-second autonomous period in which the robots operate independently of driver input. Discs scored during this period are worth more points. For the remainder of the match, drivers control their robots. The match ends with the robots attempting to climb pyramids that are located near the middle of the 27 x 54-foot indoor playing field. Robots earn points based on how high they climb.

Each robotics team is structured like a miniature business, with committees covering software, hardware, marketing, finance and more. Most robots are about the size of a small chest freezer. Each team is given the same basic components to build their robots, but no blueprint is provided. The result is a diverse collection of cleverly crafted machines.

Founded in 2010, Mid-Atlantic Robotics (MAR) is a non-profit corporation that spans all of Delaware, New Jersey and counties in Pennsylvania from Harrisburg eastward. MAR is affiliated with FIRST Robotics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1989 that aims to inspire youth and promote interest in science and technology through robotic competitions that involve 2,500 teams and 58,000 students in the U.S. and around the world.

Mount Saint Joseph Academy, a college prep school at 120 W. Wissahickon Ave. in Flourtown, has been educating girls since 1858. For more information, call 215-233-3177, x327.

(Information provided by Maryellen Anastasio, Director of Communications, Mount Saint Joseph Academy.)

Ed. Note: Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior and/or cognition. Many of today’s robots are inspired by nature, contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.

The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back to classical times, but research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until the 20th century. Throughout history, robotics has been often seen to mimic human behavior, and often manage tasks in a similar fashion. Today, robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue. There is a great deal of researching, designing and creating new robots to serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially or militarily. Many robots do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs and exploring shipwrecks and mines.