Franklin Regional robotics team charges to contest finals with Panzer | TribLIVE
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Franklin Regional robotics team charges to contest finals with Panzer

| Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Murrysville Star Members of the Franklin Regional Robotics team participated in the Greater Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition on March 27-29 at California University of Pennsylvania. Jake Stebbins sets the robot in place on the playing field.

Members of Franklin Regional School District's Robotics team are celebrating success this week after placing second at the Greater Pittsburgh FIRST High School Robotics Competition.

The competition, which took place over the weekend at California University of Pennsylvania, pitted robots built by students from Western Pennsylvania against each other to see who would come out on top.

The Franklin Regional team, dubbed FRobotics, was selected by a top-seeded team to join its alliance as part of the final rounds of the challenge.

The Franklin Regional robot, named Panzer, helped the alliance with its defensive capabilities, said Diane Roote, a parent and team mentor. Her son, senior Steve Roote, is a team captain.

“They saw the characteristics of our robot complementing what they need to do,” she said.

The robot's sturdy and reliable qualities made it a good choice for the Alliance, which was headed up by Pittsburgh Central Catholic and included a team from Indiana.

Though the Alliance was ousted in the final round, its teams were crowned Greater Pittsburgh Regional Finalists.

But the program is about more than winning, FRobotics team members and mentors said.

“This program isn't really about the robot,” said sophomore team member Conlon Novak. “It's about learning and growing the STEM fields.”

Participation in the competition, he said, has made a big impact on his plans for the future. Though he isn't set on exactly what he will choose as a career, Novak is sure that he will go into a field that involves science, technology, engineering or math. In this year's competition, he served as a team captain and programming lead.

He also served as one of four team captains that operated the robot. His sister, Julia Novak, also was on the team and his mother, Mary Beth Renze, served as a team mentor.

Renze has a background in engineering and computers. She said programs like FIRST aren't just building robots, they're building the future.

“The STEM industry is growing so fast that we need to be prepared at all levels of education to address this changing world,” she said.

“It could make us more competitive as a nation.”

There is more to learn from the FIRST robotics competition than what to do in your future career, according to Novak. One of his favorite parts of the program, he said, is the “gracious professionalism.”

Though FIRST teams have only six weeks to build their robot and prepare for the competition, the program encourages them to learn how to give back throughout the year. In addition to stressing what FIRST calls “co-oper-tition,” teams are required to raise $5,000 to support their efforts. They also give back by presenting on STEM opportunities, sometimes, with robot in tow.

“They really push this concept of helping others around you,” Novak said. “As long as it makes the game better, it's always the right thing to do, and really, everyone's better off for it.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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