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Robotics Teams, James McFarland Win Awards at FTC Challenge


Clockwise from top left: the team’s awards from the Jan. 20 competition; Techno Tigers members Zach Peverall ’25, Paulie Brooks ’25, George Haralambakis ’27 and Tom Maekawa ’27; Minimum members Rehan Khan, Aldo Mineo ’25 and Harry Ursitti ’25; McFarland with the Compass Award


Ravenscroft’s Upper School robotics teams competed at the FTC (First Tech Challenge) Robotics Competition, held at Thales Academy in Rolesville on Jan. 20. Two teams were recognized for their work, and coach James McFarland received the Compass Award for his outstanding coaching.

The competition is open to students in grades seven through 12. According to the program’s website, team members “design, build, program and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation and working as a team.”

The January event featured 21 teams. Three Ravenscroft teams competed, with Automated Admiralty finishing eighth, Minimum finishing 15th and Techno Tigers finishing third, advancing to the semifinals of Tournament 3. While the teams did not qualify for the state tournament, they will continue competing this season in hopes of becoming eligible.

Two teams were recognized with tournament awards.

Team Techno Tigers — Zach Peverall ’25, Paulie Brooks ’25, George Haralambakis ’27, Tom Maekawa ’27 and Tyler Artinger ’25 — won the Control Award, which “celebrates a team that uses sensors and software to increase the robot’s functionality in the field. This award is given to the team that demonstrates innovative thinking to solve game challenges such as autonomous operation, improving mechanical systems with intelligent control or using sensors to achieve better results. The control component should work consistently in the field. The team’s engineering portfolio must contain a summary of the software, sensors and mechanical control but would not include copies of the code itself.”

Team Minimum — comprising Rehan Khan ’25, Aldo Mineo ’25, Harry Ursitti ’25 and Isaac Freeman ’25 — won the Design Award, which recognizes design elements of the robot that are both functional and aesthetic. The Design Award is presented to teams that “incorporate industrial design elements into their solution. These design elements could simplify the robot’s appearance by giving it a clean look, be decorative in nature or otherwise express the creativity of the team. The robot should be durable, efficiently designed and effectively address the game challenge.” 

In addition to the team awards, James McFarland, who coaches the team with colleague Mariam Elias, was recognized with the Compass Award. This award “recognizes an adult coach or mentor who has given outstanding guidance and support to a team throughout the year and demonstrates to the team what it means to be a gracious professional.” McFarland was nominated for the award by members of the team, who sent in a short video highlighting his role in their progress and success.

McFarland joined the Innovation, Design and Engineering Department in the fall of 2022 and teaches Upper School engineering. He was joined this fall by Elias, who teaches Upper School computer science.

“James brings a wealth of technical expertise to our robotics program. He, along with Mariam, mentors and guides our students, imparting coding and engineering skills, creating a vibe where we all work together to solve problems, whether it’s in class or after school,” Director of Educational Technology Mitch Carraway, who is chair of the department, said. “James really stood out at the qualifier event, and it’s no surprise he snagged the Compass Award for outstanding coaches.”

Read more about McFarland, Elias, Carraway and what else is new in the cross-divisional IDE Department in this story from the Fall 2023 Ravenscroft Magazine, “Nine New Developments in IDE.”