From right, Burncoat robotics instructor Nicholas Gallotti and Lt. Karen Polito, with the Burncoat Green Reapers robotics team and their robot.

Hoop-shooting robots? Students test their skills during STEM Week

WORCESTER – Monday marked the start of the fifth annual Massachusetts Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Week, and as part of the start, students from Barncott High School gathered in the school gymnasium to film some episodes – in a fairly high-tech fashion.

Students were facing their rivals from the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic and it might not initially sound like something related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) until you hear that kids were using robots in the game.

First Lieutenant Karen Polito visited Burncoat High to showcase the first robotics programs (to inspire and recognize science and technology) in the school as well as surrounding schools. While the program might be called FIRST, Worcester-area students are no strangers to robotics. Accompanied by their coaches, students from elementary to high school demonstrated their creativity and how they have achieved success in completing set challenges (such as shooting balls through basketball hoops).

“Every year we build a completely new robot, and the goal is different every year,” said Nicholas Gallotti, Burncoat’s robotics trainer.

The mission this year was to catch a 9-inch ball and throw it vertically into the goal.

“That’s apparently the height of the basketball hoop,” he said as the red ball was sailing through the net.

The Burncoat team, nicknamed the Green Reapers, began work on their robot in January, as did their opponents at Mass Academy.

“We are both tasked with doing the exact same thing but we deal with it in two completely different ways,” Galeotti explained.

While the two teams are technically competing, he emphasized that the real goal was fun and innovation, with the question of winning or losing a second distant.

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