Team Spotlight: TechKnights Robotics Team’s Plan for Success

Team Spotlight: TechKnights Robotics Teams Plan for Success

Flyers for the TechKnights, Brooklyn Tech’s competitive robotics team, have been seen throughout the school this fall. The team, originally founded in 1998, has earned New York City regional awards dating back to 1999, most recently bringing home the Excellence and Engineering Award in 2019. Following their loss in the quarterfinals of the 2022 regional competition, the team is gearing up for a comeback in the spring of 2023.

The TechKnights plan to make their first appearance of the year at For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) regional competitions on March 20th in Long Island and on April 5th in New York City.

FIRST is an educational nonprofit focusing on STEM. They host robotics competitions which allow teams to compete in alliance with other schools. Depending on the competition’s themes, teams complete tasks that challenge students’ engineering and collaboration skills. The FIRST world championship is held annually in Houston, Texas. Many teams are vying to qualify, which can be done in several ways. One of these is being a part of a winning alliance in a regional competition.

In the most recent season, the TechKnights made it to the NYC quarterfinals with their robot Ultor, featuring a six horse-power drive and turret shooter, which allows the robot to rotate for mobility. The robot was brainstormed in one night, and the team was able to immediately start programming and experimenting with prototypes. The final robot was ready in about 12 weeks, slightly behind the team’s usual schedule. This season, with the TechKnights attending two more competitions, they hope to be even more successful.

The team plans to divide and conquer, creating engineering, programming, and media groups to work efficiently. Engineers work on the design of the robot, brainstorm prototypes, and build the physical mechanisms. Afterwards, the engineers explain the goals and abilities of the robot to the programmers, which they learn to code. The media and awards group creates presentations and videos to compete for awards such as the Dean’s List Award and the Chairman’s Award, and help alumni and sponsors stay involved through social media updates.

The competitions slowly release hints to give the teams a sense of how to strategize, this year being the name of the game: “Charge Up.” Willem Long (‘24), a member of the TechKnights, predicts that the theme of this year’s competition will be “energy.” However, the team will not know the full details until January.

The time before the competition must be used wisely if the team hopes to achieve a better outcome this year. One of the team’s advisors, Mr. Lyons, described the importance of managing time. He said, “I think finishing on time is a goal. We’d like to finish in time to be able to give ourselves the opportunity to practice with the robot and spend some more time with the robot rather than building until the deadline and then not having as much time to practice.”

Tech has both a robotics major and several engineering clubs, but the robotics team is more hands-on, interactive, and competitive. “I feel like in the major you would be able to learn the [engineering and use of machines] but you’re not going to be able to learn it as well as you are if you’re on the team,” said Gadin Aggarwal (‘25). “We’re a small group, learning how to use these machines professionally.”

Lyons described the team’s dynamic as “a really intense experience where the students are very heavily involved in every aspect of the project…I think that’s a unique thing where all the students are designing, prototyping, building, testing, and driving.”

The team also provides in-depth technical learning experience. “I learned that the delegation for specialization is really helpful, having people that are really good at mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, programming, media, awards, stuff like that,” Long said. “It’s really helpful to not have to do three things at once and instead focus and do really well on one thing and find that one mechanism. ”

The team also allows members to help each other and improve their individual skills. “When I first joined the team, I was very shy and I didn’t really know anyone on the team, but after talking to other people, I was able to learn how to use CAD (computer-aided design), I was able to learn how to use the softwares, I was able to learn how to design something correctly,” explained Aggarwal.

The TechKnights can be found in the robotics engineering room, 1S12, almost every day after school, spending hours on end preparing for their competitions. It is a laborious, time-consuming, and mechanical process, but the results are worth it. “It’s nice to see all of your hard work pay off and have something come from 6, 8, 10 weeks of work and then be able to test that out against other teams,” said Lyons.