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Fort Myers and Naples STEM team competes with robot in FIRST world championship

The robot’s name is WARP and the Southwest Florida teens who built it hope that the boxy machine speeds to a world-championship victory. The robotics team, Java The Hutts, traveled this week to Houston, Texas to compete within the annual FIRST Championship. The team’s 11 members earned their spot after winning first place last month at a Florida state championship in Winter Haven.

“We’re so honored and excited to be going,” says team member Delaney Baucom, 16, from Fort Myers. “There’s the suspense of the competition. But even when we go and do not win anything, it’s still just the undeniable fact that we got to be there that is so vital.”

This is not the primary time Java the Hutts have gone to the world championships. They went in 2022 as well and ended up winning first place with their alliance teams within the Freight Frenzy category (together with teams from Romania and Colorado).

“It was a surreal experience,” says WARP programmer Almira Pratasenia, 17, from Naples. “We showed up and we were like, ‘We’re just gonna attempt to do our greatest.'”

Fort Myers’ Java the Hutts: ‘We make robots’

The Java The Hutts team has spent months working on WARP. That features numerous late nights and long weekends on the Fort Myers garage that serves as their robotics workshop.

“I feel all of us share a really, very deep love for robotics and engineering,” Pratasenia says. “I have been doing this for seven years now.”

The team’s name is a play on each the Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt and the Java computer programming language utilized by WARP. They’re considered one of hundreds of teams within the international, STEM-focused program FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). They’re also a part of the FIRST robotics category FIRST Tech Challenge.

The Java the Hutts have one easy mission: “We make robots,” Baucom says.

This week, their newest robot will enter a 12-foot by 12-foot playing field in Houston and compete in team alliances against other robotics teams. Their goal is to scoop up flat, hexagon-shaped plastic “pixels” and move them to a vertical backboard. The team that stacks up essentially the most pixels ― and in addition gets essentially the most points-earning color mixtures ― wins each 2½-minute game.

The Java The Hutts ― also often called Team 14725 ― began working on WARP in about January. It was their second attempt at a brand new championship-winning robot after scrapping their first.

They’d been working on that first robot since about August, but began having problems. “It was a bit chunkier,” says team member Nikolai Pratasenia, 16, Naples. “The mechanisms were somewhat less refined.”

So that they hit the drafting board again and designed an all-new robot. WARP uses a carbon-fiber frame to scale back weight, 3D-printed plastic parts, special Axon-brand servos, and a camera to maneuver across the playing field and detect the colours of the pixels.

WARP also has an extendable metal arm the teenagers have dubbed “Extendo.” It reaches out to grab things from a distance, which implies they haven’t got to drive all the way in which across the playing field to get the pixels.

“The extension actually saves us time,” says junior builder Dhira Sharma, 13, Fort Myers.

WARP is small ― just 18 by 18 inches and about 35 kilos. But all robots competing April 17-20 need to be that size or smaller.

The competing robots can either be player-controlled using videogame controllers, or they will go into “autonomous” mode and move around solely based on programming. Each FIRST Championship game features two minutes of driver control and 30 seconds of autonomous driving.

Why Java the Hutts members love robots and FIRST Tech Challenge

Why do they do it? It’s all for the love of robotics and engineering.

“I similar to constructing stuff,” Sharma says.

Sometimes they’re at their Fort Myers workshop each day ― especially as competitions get nearer. “Weekends, we are available the morning and leave within the evening,” Almira Pratasenia says and laughs.

Her brother, 16-year-old Nikolai Pratasenia, likes robotics and engineering because he’s all the time learning latest things. “You find out about different mechanisms,” he says. “It’s greater than just robots. It’s in regards to the skills that you simply learn, and teamwork also.”

The members of Java the Hutts come from eight different schools in Lee and Collier counties:

Dhruva Sharma, Fort Myers High
Robbie Stewart, dual-enrolled at FGCU and Bonita Springs High
Advaith Menon, Dunbar High
Nishini Fernando, Dunbar High
Delaney Baucom, FSW Collegiate High
Nash Baucom, Dunbar High
Dhira Sharma, Canterbury School
Jacob Adams, First Baptist Academy
Daniel Rashid, First Baptist Academy
Almira Pratasenia, Mason Classical Academy
And Nikolai Pratasenia, Mason Classical Academy

Learn more about Java the Hutts at javathehutts.org.


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