This past weekend students from throughout the DMV gathered to compete head to head in the FIRST Chesapeake’s robotics competition. 

The district championship event featured robotics and technology exhibits, a competition tournament between 60 of the best robotics teams in the region, and awards. For this year’s challenge, teams were tasked with building robots capable of navigating a playing field, picking up cones and cubes, placing them on shelves, and climbing onto a teetering charge station. 

“The FIRST Chesapeake FRC Championship is the pinnacle of robotics sports competitions, bringing together the brightest minds from across the region to design, build, and program their own robots,” said Scott Turnbull, FIRST Chesapeake executive director. “The pride and excitement on display is palpable, as teams compete for a chance to represent their school and district at the FIRST World Championships. With the support of Booz Allen Hamilton and other major partners, the FIRST Chesapeake FRC Championship is a shining example of what is possible when young people are given the opportunity to explore their passions and pursue their dreams. We’re inviting you to be part of that journey too.” 

According to Cricket Moore, a volunteer with FIRST, the competition began in 1989 with just 12 high school teams. FIRST has now grown to have thousands of teams, hundreds of sponsors, and offers millions of dollars in scholarships, and seeks to spark students’ interests in robotics and engineering. 

“This is an excellent pipeline to get people interested in the work we do,” said Dave Lavery, a program executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA. “And if you happen to have a lot of fun along the way that’s cool too.” 

Lavery worked alongside Herndon’s team and explained that the team, which has been competing for 28 years and was the first team to be sponsored by NASA, offers students a chance to work alongside professional engineers. 

“They get to go through the full engineering process, from a blank piece of paper to a full robot in a few weeks,” explained Lavery. 

Creativity and problem-solving are a huge part of the competition, added Lavery. 

“Every different team comes up with a different take on the problem,” he said. “We build a mock pit and the students pretend to be robots, they practice playing to figure out what type of robot is best for the game.” 

Gryphon Robotics, Marshall High School’s team, required a lot of problem-solving and dedication throughout the process. Team captain Pranau Bhimraju explained the team faced several difficulties including only being allowed to stay after school two hours a day to work on it due to a lack of a teacher who could monitor them, a lack of funds, and several design changes. 

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours so everyone on the team has to have the same attitude of ‘I wanna be here, I wanna compete,” said Bhimraju. 

Bhimraju explained that the team became incredibly close after spending months working together. 

“It’s incredible how much of a family it becomes,” said Bhimraju. 

The students of the Gryphon robotics team all excitedly praised the event and how much they learned throughout the process. 

“From our first competition we didn’t expect to make it this far, we’ve improved from last year and will continue to grow,” said Bhimraju.

The weekend culminated in awards for a few local teams. Titan Robotics from Alexandria City High received the Regional FIRST Impact award which according to the FIRST website “is the most prestigious award at FIRST, it honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST.” 

Newton^2 a Fairfax community team was a district championship finalist, and also received the Excellence in Engineering award. They’re currently ranked fourth in the district. 

Chantilly Robotics received the team spirit award.

(1) comment

Froth Studios

Awesome event for the next generation and for the community!

Keep up with FRC Team 8592 - Newton Squared on Facebook ( and/or Instagram (

Upcoming is the FRC World Championship from 19-22 Apr in Houston, TX!

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