Robotics team #7350, WATT NXT, advanced to the Pennsylvania State Championship on Saturday, January 7, 2017, winning the highest prize during the Qualifying competition, the Inspire Award, at their first competition of the season!

 

Team 7350, WATT NXT, is a First Tech Challenge Robotics Team based in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Composed of members spanning grades 8 to 12 from Edison Township and Metuchen schools, this team is determined to spread enthusiasm for STEM education. This year, the team is focused on broadening the reach of FIRST robotics to encompass students from international communities with limited exposure to STEM education and robotics. Watt NXT also works toward their multi-year goal of increasing diversity in STEM by motivating and involving students with physical disabilities, specifically muscular dystrophy. Team Captain, Jack Ryan, expresses, "Robotics is a sport for the mind, not just the body". This quote exemplifies the team's belief that any person can think and innovate, regardless of medical condition or disability. Watt NXT aspires to "take robotics where it has never gone before”.

 

The team won the Inspire award at the FTC Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional State Qualifier in Oxford, Pennsylvania. This prestigious award is given to the team that the judges feel is the overall most well-rounded in all judged areas. The team must connect with engineering mentors, employ creative designs for their robot and be innovative when executing them, and most importantly - spread the love of science, technology, engineering, math, and FIRST throughout the community. The team that receives this award is recognized for helping their local community understand FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the team itself. Watt NXT member, Madhu Sivaraj, has this to say: "Winning the Inspire Award was very exciting and put the team one step closer to our goal of increasing diversity in FIRST".

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Mentored by Coach James Carr and Dr. Gregory Ryan, WATT NXT members are all dedicated to further expanding their knowledge in STEM fields. They collaborate with each other to achieve their goals, not only in building a successful robot, but also to achieve their team vision. Team member Kunj Shah remarks, “Being on a FIRST team has taught me how to compromise, and work with others who do not necessarily agree with me.” The team often works with professionals in the fields of STEM and Robotics as mentors who can teach them new skills and guide them in their robot-building projects like Neil Pandya, a JAVA software programmer with over fifteen years of experience, and Jingjin Yu, a Computer Science professor at Rutgers University.

 

This year, the team also worked towards fulfilling their vision of changing FIRST by increasing participation of students in international countries. Watt NXT successfully formed robotics teams in India and have been invited to Italy and Canada to mentor teams. This past summer, Watt NXT was also invited to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Camp in Coventry, CT and taught robotics classes to students with physical disabilities like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Team programmer, Pranav Sivaraman, commented, "The sky is not the limit; there are footprints on the moon.” With robotics increasingly bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds, our work with professional scientists and engineers and our mentors at PTC Therapeutics and MDA has allowed us to improve our approach and come up with new ideas to incorporate into our design and outreach. Our mentors are a key part in the success we have enjoyed in designing our robot and in our daily lives as well. In addition to their outreaches in the field of robotics and STEM, the team is also connecting international teams with a lack of exposure to STEM and robotics to mentors in their local area through Mentors with Borders, an international program Watt NXT created to enable any FIRST team to succeed through the guidance of mentors.

 

Coach Jim Carr and Dr. Gregory Ryan are very proud of the team's victory. The team's slogan “SAY WATT?” was heard resonating often during the competition with the bellowing response of "WATT!".  As per tradition, each team member proudly wore their team t-shirt to school the day after competition and explained to classmates and teachers the various aspects of their competition, outreach, and victory of advancing to the FTC Pennsylvania State Championship this year.

 

Individuals and organizations wishing to learn more or to contribute to WATT NXT may contact the team at www.wattnxt.org or email the team at info@wattnxt.org.

 

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for robotics, science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. This organization consists of more than 130,000 Mentors, Coaches, and Volunteers from more than 80 countri