Mt. Hope robotics team makes school history

Students and parents team up to welcome 15 teams and host robotics competition

By Scott Pickering
Posted 1/9/20

Mt. Hope High School students made history for their school on Saturday, when they were the first to ever host a First Tech Challenge robotics competition not held on the New England Institute of …

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Mt. Hope robotics team makes school history

Students and parents team up to welcome 15 teams and host robotics competition

Posted

Mt. Hope High School students made history for their school on Saturday, when they were the first to ever host a First Tech Challenge robotics competition not held on the New England Institute of Technology campus. It was an enormous undertaking that began weeks in advance, had students volunteering hours of time last week during their school vacation, and kept them working at Mt. Hope for nearly 12 hours on Saturday.

Ryan Garrity, leader of the Mt. Hope Engineering and Robotics program and coach for the two Mt. Hope robotics teams, could not have been happier. He said the core group of students were setting up at Mt. Hope from 1 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, then they returned at 6 a.m. on Saturday and worked until 5:30 p.m. to manage the event, which involved 15 teams from around Rhode Island competing against each other in a series of engineering and robotics challenges.

“The kids had a lot of work to do to prepare, then they actually ran the event on Saturday,” Mr. Garrity said. “They were cuing the teams, getting teams organized. Two of our students were the MCs. The head judge came up to me personally and commented on what a great job they did.”

First Tech Challenge (FTC) is an organization that promotes and organizes science, technology, engineering and math programs for students in Grades 7 to 12. The nonprofit group partners with schools, volunteers and the private sector, with the most visible program the school-based robotics competitions. Mt. Hope’s event was the first of three qualifiers for a statewide championship competition in February at New England Tech.

The twelve students on Mt. Hope’s “Underdogs” team did not compete on Saturday, as they were the team hosting the event. Because they served as hosts, they have already qualified for the state event.

Mt. Hope’s other team, the “TaterBots,” comprised of mostly underclassmen and one Kickemuit Middle School student, competed Saturday and finished among the top teams in the field of 15. The TaterBots were fourth going into the final round of competition but ended up in second place. They also won several secondary awards, including a “Design” award and the prestigious “Inspire Award,” given to teams that embodied the full spirit of the challenge. Both Mt. Hope teams are now officially qualified for the state competition.

Mr. Garrity started the robotics program at Mt. Hope 14 years ago, and today it is part of the regular curriculum at the school. Students attend class every day on a rotating schedule, and they typically meet after school from two to five days a week, depending on the time of year.

A self-described “jack of all trades,” Mr. Garrity teaches five different specialities at Mt. Hope, including engineering, construction, home wiring and CAD (computer aided design). He said this year has seen a revival in both energy and participation in the robotics and engineering program.

“This is the first year in a long, long time where the students and parents are really engaged, making it a great season,” Mr. Garrity said.

He gives enormous credit to parent volunteer Ines Loureiro, who took the lead in organizing many aspects of Saturday’s competition. She networked to get the police, fire and custodial presence at the school, to engage parents and to solicit donations from the community.

Mr. Garrity said guests from the participating teams commented on the great food provided throughout the day, much of it prepared by parent volunteers and some of it donated from area businesses.

“The parents were a huge help,” Mr. Garrity said.

The Mt. Hope High School Robotics Club is hosting a spaghetti supper and silent auction at the school from 5 to 7:30 p.m. this Friday night, Jan. 10.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.