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FHS Flagship 3140 alliance Region robotics No. 1 champions

For the first time in program history, Farragut High School’s FIRST Robotics team brought home a Smoky Mountain Regional Championship.

“When I realized we were winning — and I guess this sounds a bit cliché — it didn’t feel like this was happening, it seemed unbelievable.” said Zaky Hussein, FHS senior and drive team leader. “Everyone wants to win your final year on the team and only one team can win. Just the fact that it was us was amazing to me.”

Farragut’s team, “Flagship 3140,” was part of a three-team alliance that won the 2017 Smoky Mountain Regional Championship Saturday, March 25, and an invitation to compete in the world championship. Team members and parents will be traveling to First Robotics World Championship in Houston, April 19-22.

The team, under the direction of teacher sponsors Jane Skinner and Aundrea Mitchell, took their robot named “Ta1ls” to the competition at Thompson-Boling Arena last weekend where they locked horns with 49 other teams from around the country.

Skill wasn’t the only variable; luck also was involved. As in the recent competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C., each team’s robot had to perform some specific tasks related to the theme “STEAMWORKS”: load and shoot fuel cells [whiffle balls], deliver a gear from the loading station to the airships [a platform on the field] and finally, grab a rope or strap and haul itself up to illuminate a touch plate.

“It was a hard competition,” FHS parent-mentor Lee Johnson said. “We kind of became the comeback kids in this one. We were way down in the standings on Friday night. The initial pairings are random matchings. We just had not had the best pairings with random teams … everybody was struggling with the pairings they were given.

“We just had a few rounds of bad luck. We were one win and five losses on Friday night.”

While five FHS team members were operating the robot on the field, the opponent’s robot was trying to keep Farragut from scoring and win the match themselves.

Other students were “scouting” the competition to see which teams they’d like to compete with when the time came to align with two other teams.

“On Saturday just before noon, a team from Warren, Ohio, which was ranked higher than FHS, used its scouting information to see it needed Farragut to help them,” Johnson said. “We complimented them. The group from Ohio selected us to be part of the alliance with them and the team from Orlando. We stayed with them from before noon on Saturday at end of qualification bouts. At that point in time there were eight alliances [of three teams each].”

As the contest raged on, four alliances were eliminated, then two. Finally, the top two alliances went head-to-head with a total of six robots on the field in the final round to determine the top alliance.

Hussein was the main driver of the robot and one of the robotics team captains. Also on the drive team was Hayden Allen, [coach who can’t touch the controls once the match has begun], Patience Simes, Ryan Cook [the human player who delivered gears to the field] and Evan Gitto. As the secondary driver, Gitto made sure FHS didn’t foul by pinning the opposing robot for more than five seconds.

John Manneschmidt, freshman, was safety captain. “It was unreal,” Manneschmidt said. “I was looking forward to it, but I didn’t think it would happen my freshman year. As we’re playing the match, you could see the real-time score. We had a pretty good idea we’d won, but we weren’t really sure until it was official. It was incredible. Everybody jumped up and was yelling and screaming.”

“I am so proud of this team for all their hard work, dedication and time,” Skinner said. “What these students have accomplished is beyond amazing. These students learn and gain so much from this program and I am always learning from them.

“This team came from behind with a six-loss record on the first day to winning the entire competition with their alliance partners on the second day,” Skinner added. “They NEVER gave up! Their positive attitudes, trouble-shooting skills and unusual strategies pulled us through to a great win!

Other FHS robotics team members are students Varsha Babu, Aditya Bal, Aidan Barrett, Spenser Byrd, Garret Chaffins, Kah Choong, Adam Cook, Sam Cowell, Kijan Daniel, John Donnell, Chloe Guzowshi, Ronan Hix, Harrison Hoytt, Zaky Hussein, Prajwal Jagadish, Aaron Johnson, Sol Kim, Henry Kitts, Ryan Lorick, Chloe Maillard, Evelyn Mitchell, Alexander Peters and Nalin Varma.

Other members are Roshan Varma, Dean Vookles, Kevin Wang, Cindy Wei and Taylor White. Adult mentors: Troy Jensen, Jeffrey Parsley, Eric Manneschmidt, Amos Manneschmidt, Robert Peters, Christopher Allen, Mark Cook, Venugopal Varma, Cathy Simes, Claus Daniel, Greg Butler, Mary Cook, Jill Costanzo, Leland Johnson, Jose Gracia, Deborah Gracia, John Gitto, Terry Carpenter and Bruce Chaffins.

“Not only are they learning the basics of engineering, from mechanical to software engineering,” said Aundrea Mitchell, FHS engineering teacher, “they’re also learning those intangibles that are so important to all sorts of employers—grit, teamwork, time management—all those things that can be kind of hard to teach. A lot of them are completely different people when they start than when they graduate out of this program because of what they’ve learned.”

“There are so many people we want to thank for helping us to get to this win,” Skinner said. “In many ways, we share this with all the area teams, our sponsors, parents and mentors, not only this year’s members, but those from all the past years who helped to build a solid foundation for us to build and grow on.”

Teacher sponsors: Jane Skinner and Aundrea Mitchell.

The robotics team will be needing money to ship the robot to Houston, pay for travel for the students and teachers and “the pit,” their 10 foot-by-10 foot workshop. Interested donors can contribute at