Automatic winners: AHS robotics team finishes strong

Last week, the Albemarle High School robotics team beat out nine other teams to take first place at the in-the-water robotics Sailbot competition in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The team is made up of five senior students, two of whom were part of the community based team called Defying Gravity, which won the Virginia state tournament in March, and competed in the robotics FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri in April. The Sailbot competition, however, was different in that not only is the team unrelated to Defying Gravity, but the student team members were up against not only other high school teams but also teams from colleges and universities. Still, the students’ work paid off.

“We had a teacher who would help us with fundraising and ordering parts, but other than that it was our own research, our own building, and our own producing,” says team member Eric Hahn. “Each one of us is in charge of a different part, like mechanics or logistics.”

There were five parts of the competition including long distance, navigation, stationkeeping, presentation and a fleet race. The team won four out of the five categories en route to their first place finish in the contest's one-meter category. (A second category featuring boats two-meters in length was won by a team from the University of British Columbia.)

“The experience was awesome,” Hahn says, noting that donations from local businesses made it possible for them to build the boat, travel and compete. 

The five seniors will all be leaving for college in the fall; Hahn will be attending Virginia Tech; Elizabeth Hillstrom and Thomas Teisberg are headed to Stanford; Simanta Gautam will go to MIT; and Ben Merrel will be off to Purdue.  

Though the students will be going their separate ways, their paths will likely cross again at collegiate robotics competitions, not as teammates, though, but as competitors.

At least they'll know who they're up against!

Correction: Defying Gravity was a community based team from Earlysville and did not compete in the Sailbot competition. Two members from Defying Gravity are part of the AHS robotics team, which did compete in the Sailbot competition.— Ed.


Congratulations to these hardworking and smart students and to their teacher!

I'd like a clarification though: is Ben Merrel going to Perdue to study chickens. or perhaps is he going to Purdue? Perhaps your editor could check that out :)

A slight correction from a member of the team:

Although two of the teammates, Thomas and Eric, are part of the local FIRST Tech Challenge team "Defying Gravity" which competed in the World Championships in St. Louis, the Sailbot project is not part of that team. The five students that created the boat did so for their senior project in the MESA program at Albemarle High School, and 3 out of 5 students were not part of "Defying Gravity."

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your comment above. "Defying Gravity" is a community-based team rather than a school-based team.

Congratulations to the Sailbot winners!!