EDITOR’S NOTE: After this story was published, we learned the Krypton Cougars were the winners of the final off-season event, RAMP RIOT 2019, held Nov. 2 and 3 at Wissahickon H.S. in Ambler, PA. Congratulations to the Cougars!
On Saturday Oct. 26, some of the area’s brightest young minds were all in the same place. The auditorium at Hatboro-Horsham High School in Montgomery County was the venue for the fourth annual HAVOC off-season robotics competition, sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).
The Krypton Cougars, a high school robotics team based in Palmyra, had two robots in the competition, with one ending up on the championship winning alliance and another a finalist on the second place squad.
HAVOC is not an acronym, by the way, but more generally refers to the mayhem inside the robotic cage matches.
The Krypton Cougars are made up of high school students from Palmyra, Hershey, Northern Lebanon, and even home-schooled students. The team has had past members from other local schools as well. There are currently about 25 students on the Cougars squad.
FIRST is an organization founded by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology and have fun doing it. Among Kamen’s inventions are the Segway, the Auto Syringe, and the iBOT Wheelchair.
In a phone conversation with the Krypton Cougars lead mentor, retired mechanical engineer and Lebanon High School grad Joe Woelfling, Woelfling explained to LebTown that the team has had a good year. After completing the 2019 regular season with a trip to the World Championships in Detroit in April, the squad entered several off-season competitions intended to develop new members. To enhance the training process, the Cougars then decided to design and build another robot to allow more students to participate, along with original robot Team 2539. That second robot was dubbed Team 9539.
At the most recent competition, both Team 2539 and Team 9539 robots participated in the Swiss-style tournament which saw each team/robot teamed up with two other machines to form an “alliance” that then took on another three robot-squad. As the playoffs continued, the Cougars had a team on the final two alliances. The alliance containing Team 9539 was declared the winner and the alliance with Team 2539 came in second. As with most of the competitions, winning teams were rewarded with a trophy and access to scholarships.
According to Woelfling, student participation in the Krypton Cougars is free except for some travel expenses. Funding for the robots is covered by generous corporate and local sponsors who get their name on the machines. Local sponsors of Team 2539 include Philadelphia Mixing Solutions, Rothermel-Finkenbinder Funeral Home, and Lebanon Pattern Shop.
With one more off-season competition held this past weekend, the Cougars are looking forward to 2020 with a Jan. 4 kickoff party. They’re always looking for new members, mentors, sponsors, and anyone who just wants to learn more about FIRST Robotics.
And, what about the TV show “Battlebots” where robot teams do their best to destroy the other machines in a high-tech demolition derby? Woelfling says they do watch it. You never know what you might learn.
As Mr. Spock might say… “Fascinating, Captain”