Robotics team puts it in FIRST gear

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 17, 2016

 Pictured from left are students from the Gearheads robotics team who pitched the game that became this year’s competition: North students Nick Santrock, Audrey Kam and Aidan Reickert; and South students Anna Karcher and Aidan Clements. Santrock and Karcher graduated in 2015; Kam, Reickert and Clements are seniors.

Pictured from left are students from the Gearheads robotics team who pitched the game that became this year’s competition: North students Nick Santrock, Audrey Kam and Aidan Reickert; and South students Anna Karcher and Aidan Clements. Santrock and Karcher graduated in 2015; Kam, Reickert and Clements are seniors.

Photo provided by the Grosse Pointe Public School System

Advertisement

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The Gearheads have got game.

Last summer, the robotics team composed of Grosse Pointe North and South high school students presented a game competition idea for FIRST Robotics.

The team members came up with a siege-warfare/tower-defender game concept tentatively titled “Medieval Mayhem.” Working with corporate representatives and sponsors from FedEx, the students put together a pitch for their idea, traveled to FIRST’s global headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire, and became the first team in FIRST Robotics Competition history to pitch a game idea to Frank Merrick, the director of game development.

According to an email that Gearheads advisor Sean McCarroll wrote, the students and advisor expected that some of the game might be worked into a 2017 or 2018 game. But on Jan. 9, the team’s concept was released to all robotics teams in the world as the official 2016 game, known as “FIRST Stronghold.”

“Needless to say, this was a huge opportunity for our students, and they are ecstatic that their game ideas were incorporated into a game that every (FIRST Robotics Competition) team in the world will be playing this spring,” wrote McCarroll, who also is a social studies teacher and Class of 2018 advisor at North. 

In the game, the goal is to breach the opponent’s defenses, known as the “outer works,” weaken their tower (castle) with boulders and capture it. The boulders are 19-inch-diameter gray foam balls. As boulders score, the tower loses strength. The highest score at the end of the match will earn the win. 

>> Click to view the game

On Jan. 25, Merrick wrote a blog about the Gearheads on the FIRST Robotics website at www.firstinspires.org.

“I thought one of the most interesting aspects of their pitch was the way in which they incorporated video game tropes in live-action play, turning the competition into almost a live-action video game, at least to some extent,” Merrick stated. “If you look closely at FIRST Stronghold, you will find here and there a few video game tropes, which I believe enhance the experience of the game.”

FIRST, which is “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The nonprofit FIRST designs programs meant to motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

The Gearheads team has more than 40 students and about 10 mentors. The team is divided into six sections: design, build, fabrication, controls, media and safety. Each section has its own student leader and at least one parent mentor. The team meets once a week at North.

Advertisement