Student-built robots from 38 high school teams in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts will battle each other in the Mid-Atlantic District FIRST Robotics Competition (www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc) at Mount Olive High School on March 9 and 10. In conjunction with the competition, the school will host its second “Marauder Maker Fest,” featuring science and technology activities for all ages, on March 9. Both events are free and open to the public.
The robots will compete for district rankings in a game called Destination: Deep Space. Using an outer-space theme, the competition requires robots to team up to place hatch panels on their rockets and cargo ship. The teams also need to load cargo for transport off the planet and return safely back to their habitats. They must complete this all before they are faced with a sandstorm.
Top-ranked robots from district competitions advance to regional and, potentially, world robotics events later this spring. Teams also compete for various awards, including the prestigious Chairman’s Award for its overall program. The Mount Olive competition, which annually attracts more than 2,000 students, parents and community members, this year will include robots from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well as teams from Morris, Sussex, Warren, Somerset, Passaic, Essex, Union, Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, and Mercer counties.
“I personally am so excited to work on this event, and to work in a school district that is so progressive and forward-thinking about STEAM [Science, Technology Education, Arts, Math] and engineering and technology,” said Ernie DiCicco, MORT mentor and coordinator of the Mount Olive district competition. He noted high school Principal Kevin Stansberry’s ongoing support for the robotics program and event, and how he has scheduled the Maker Fest two years in a row to coincide with the multi-state competition.
Said Stansberry, “Any way, shape or form during the course of your matriculation through high school, and then as you pursue majors and minors at the post-secondary level — whether it’s a two-year school, a four-year school, trade school, technical school, or even the armed forces — you are going to be exposed to technology and have to be able to use it professionally,” he said. “Giving our students that hands-on, minds-on experience at Mount Olive High School is really going to set them up for success; no matter what they choose to pursue.”
Among other activities and exhibitors, this year’s Maker Fest will include: “Future City” project demonstrations by the Mount Olive Middle School Gifted and Talented Program; Technology Student Association displays; a 3D demonstration and interactive activity; greeting card activities; and Engineering and Art with Strawbees.
“The Marauder Maker Fest,” Stansberry said, “celebrates all the STEAM programming that we have throughout the Mount Olive Township School District, going all the way down to the elementary to the middle school, [and] of course all the incredible programs that we have at the high school. The community comes together to support this very important mission of making STEAM education available to everyone. For this reason, it was not uncommon to see the fire department, EMT, Mount Olive Township Police, Girl and Boy Scouts, Mount Olive High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC Program, Rock and Roll Academy, CCM, FDU” at the event.
Mount Olive is home to the Mount Olive Robotics Team 11 (https://mort11.org/), which hosts and competes in international FIRST robotics competitions as well as participates in multiple service projects each year. Now in its 23rd year, the team involves about 70 students and pioneered the concept of a second, freshman team (Beta 193). Mount Olive High School is home to a full robotics shop that is funded with the support from the school district and team sponsors.
All are welcome to attend the Maker Fest on March 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Destination: Deep Space competition on March 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about these events, contact Ernie DiCicco at firstname.lastname@example.org or (201) 519-9298.