The Chatham High Robotics team, called //Cougars, earned the Division Winner title at the state championship on Feb 16th at Columbia High School in Maplewood.

The team also earned second runnerup for the Inspire Award that day. Previously, //Cougars also won the Connect Award, and the team was nominated for the Think Award. With these accomplishments, the team earned their spot to compete among the 48 best teams from across the state (there are over 250 NJ teams at this time) in the state championship.

“It was really incredible to watch the team and program grow this year," Julie Ryan, coach and CHS Design & Technology teacher, said. "Even though I had returning members, they got to find their own way and step into the leadership shoes this year after graduating six seniors last year. The season had a rocky start as they worked together to fill those shoes, but the amount of growth from each member and team was incredible.

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"We went to a competition about once a month and each time I could see immense progress with each group between their designs, programming, robot driving, and public speaking abilities. The group really grew more this year as a whole than any other year we have had in the past. It's a testament to their dedication that they qualified for the World Championship this year.”

The //Cougars team included: captain Jason Furda, Tessa Mason, Rachel Thompson, captain Emily Lamb, Leigh McCaffrey, Jackson DeVico, and Joydeep Singh.

The State championship is broken into two divisions of 24 teams and then the winner of each face off. The other division winner team was made up of a team that was ranked 7th in the world and held the highest scoring match in the world as well. Although, CHS did not win, one of the matches ended within 10 points of one another, so the match was close.

//Cougars robot had had a challenging start to the season, but at the state championship, the robot and team were functioning fluidly. The team then advanced into the semifinals on the 3rd place team to face off against the second place team in a three-round elimination. CHS, the clear underdogs, prevailed and waited to determine if they'd place the 1st or 4th place team. Once again, the underdogs took the match so the Division finals came down to the 3rd vs 4th place teams. The matches were close, but //Cougars came out on top earning the Division Winner title.

According to the FIRST Tech Challenge program, which awards the Inspire Award to high school Robotics teams, “This judged award is given to the team that embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST Tech Challenge program. The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST team.

This team is a top contender for many other judged awards and is a gracious competitor. The Inspire Award winner is an inspiration to other teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism® both on and off the playing field. This team shares their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge with other teams, sponsors, their community, and the Judges. Working as a unit, this team will have shown success in performing the task of designing and building a robot.”

For consideration for this award, //Cougars participated in a judged interview in which the team is given ten minutes to present their design process and their business plan and to explain how they engage with the community to help bring more students into STEM.  Following their judged award, the team went through a series of inspections to make sure their robot is built within compliance and can operate safely. Once this portion of the morning wrapped up, the teams begin qualification matches for the state championship.