Marauder Robotics completes initial season

Submitted Photo: Pictured is the Marauders Robotics FTC No. 13945 team which was a first-time competitor in the Excelsior NY Region FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Corning Qualifying Tournament on Jan. 7. In the front row from left are: Michael Mitchell, Joe Gifford, Carlos Rosario, Bella Donisi, Steven Zentz and Mrs. Marybeth Muldowney (Team Administrator). Back Row: Amanda Cooley (Team Coordinator), Roger Cooley Jr. (Team Coach), Alex Cooley, Daniel Muldowney, Tyler Jacques, Jimmy Beehler, Jay Gifford and Mrs. Cynthia McMillen (Team Coach/Advisor). Missing is Abbey Zentz (Mentor).

The Marauder Robotics FTC No. 13945 team traveled to the Excelsior NY Region FIRST Tech Challenge Corning Qualifying Tournament on Jan. 7 to compete alongside 21 other teams for a chance to go on to the Regional Qualifying event in Utica.

The team did not advance to regionals but was very happy with its rookie year placement of 13 among the 21 teams. In a few short months, and with build days on Saturdays, the team was able to attend this event with a working robot and go against many established teams that have been competing for many years.

While at the event, the 10 student team members were interviewed by judges who asked questions about how the team overcame challenges with building the robot and the processes they used to achieve a working robot. Next, the engineering notebook, where all the team members contribute their ideas and thoughts, was given to be reviewed by a panel of judges and evaluated.

The Marauder Robotics team then had an opportunity to have its robot compete in five different matches with various other teams from around the New York State Excelsior region.

The robot (nicknamed Dillon) had an autonomous mode where the students could not touch the system and could only program it to do certain tasks (such as move forward, pick up an item). Next, there was a driver portion of the match. In the driver portion, a student driver would control the robot, and have it pick up blocks, stack blocks, move onto a balancing board using a game controller connected to a cell phone mounted on the robot. Two teams were aligned together to work on the tasks during a match and had to try to achieve the highest score against the other two teams.

The FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students in grades 7 to 12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots in a 10-week build period to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using Java.

Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

The goal of FTC is to reach more young people with a lower-cost, more accessible opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The team members include both middle and high school students from the Dunkirk School District.

The Marauder Robotic team has been working on engineering/building concepts and programming since September 2017, when the club was first started. The Dunkirk City School District provided support to register the team and purchase a robot kit to build. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and WNY STEM also graciously donated to the team, so that they may be able to register and compete in next year’s challenge. The Dunkirk PBA donated team shirts for the team.

The team members are grateful for the wonderful support that has been given to them.

Marauder Robotics is looking for sponsors to be able to continue expanding the team and allow them to compete in events held statewide. There are also plans to get a second team started in the Dunkirk school district so additional students can participate in the FIRST FTC program.

If interested in sponsoring the team or learning more about Marauder Robotics, email Muldowney at or McMillen at Marauder Robotics is the only FIRST FTC team in Chautauqua County. The team would be happy to mentor or assist other groups who would like to get involved with the FIRST FTC program.

Upcoming events for the team include participating in STEM WARS on March 14 at Jamestown Community College, where members will demonstrate the abilities of the robot and explain the FIRST FTC program and presenting at the upcoming Dunkirk School Board meeting in April.