Recently, a team of seven middle school girls from Bellevue, Washington defied typical expectations, winning a Division Championship in robot games against 64 other teams composed primarily of high school students. After 9 rounds of qualifying matches, Robo Thunder was undefeated, and qualified for the playoffs held in front of an audience of 20,000 people at Houston’s baseball stadium. They won several elimination matches to make it into the finals, finishing 1st in their division, and 2nd in the World Championship! Team Robo Thunder #9915 then became Captain of the Finalist Alliance (equivalent to second place in the robot games) at the FIRST World Championship in Houston, Texas, held from April 19 to 22, 2017.
The team has advanced through six competitions since November 2016, including the State Championship, the Super-Regional Championship for the 13 western states, and finally the World Championship. The team participates in the FIRST Tech Challenge program, which has about 5,000 teams from 16 countries around the world. FIRST is a 28-year old non-profit organization that annually hosts the largest robotics competitions in the world for students from 1st to 12th grades. The FIRST World Championship for four programs in Houston drew 15,000 students from 33 different countries.
This is the team's second season and second time making it to World Championship. The team has been awarded eight trophies and other awards. What motivates the girls to challenge the predominantly male high-school students competing in the World Championship? "We want to show that girls can build cool robots, too" said the team. Robo Thunder girls have spent the past year studying robot construction and programming, then designing, building, programming and perfecting their competition robot. Still, their triumph didn't come easily; according to the girls, "Our robot has six major subsystems, and we've gone through five or more major revisions on each of them, improving our robot before each and every competition."
The team members are Ashley Mead, Hannah Wang, Diana Ouyang, Sriya Bulusu, Shreetama Mondal, Adhvitha Sivaganesh, and Anushka Varma. All currently attend Tyee or Tillicum Middle Schools in the Bellevue School District. The team's major sponsors are Bellevue Sunrise Rotary club, Entomo, Inc., Google and Microsoft. The team is always looking for mentors in the Bellevue, Washington area who have background in Java programming, robotics, CAD, video games, or mechanical engineering. The team's contact is Dr. Tanya Mead, Head Coach and Team Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.