Student-run ‘rookie’ team leads engineering to 2nd in district

Rock Hill, Prosper High School combine efforts, compete at Fort Worth event


Daniel Geiter

Standing next to their robot, team 9105 ‘TechnoTalons’ honor their second place win. The team consists of adult mentor Leonard Milholland, sophomores Ajay Sivachandar, Aaron Milholland, Jack Demeterio, freshman Pranav Chiqakkagari, junior Jack Cooksey, and adult mentor Liz Phillips. The team also works with district elementary schools as well as the Special Olympics teams.

Eyes on the court, the engineering team cheers as the 120-pound robot glides, carefully running at the hands of an engineered Xbox controller. The room tenses as the robot reaches for the cone. Anticipation eats at the team. Finally, the cone lifts in the air – and to victory.

Sophomore Aaron Milholland, the engineering team captain at Rock Hill, will lead his team to compete at their second district competition in Amarillo March 30 – April 1. In the competitions, each match begins with a 15-second period, in which the robots follow pre-programmed instructions before the final two minutes and 15 seconds of time, in which drivers take control. Teams score points by retrieving and scoring game pieces onto the grid, as well as docking or engaging with their charging station.

“Hopefully, we can make it to the finals again at our next district event. I think we have a good shot,” PHS sophomore Jack Demeterio said. “We’re going to make a lot of improvements to our robot. I think we can do a lot better. We’re going to get a lot more practice in.”

For two months, the Prosper ISD engineering teams spent hours of preparation, utilizing four days a week in anticipation of this competition.

“I mean there’s no holiday,” club sponsor Dan Geiter said. “You don’t have a year to do this. I mean, it’s released, and you’re told the competition date, which I think was Jan. 6 this year. After that, it’s run as fast as you can.”

Tasked with creating a fully functioning machine, the three teams composed of both Prosper and Rock Hill High School students competed. The RoboTalons finished in eighth place, and the TechnoTalons took second.

“I actually always suspected because their bot was built more solid than the other team’s bot. I was phrasing it as ‘built like a tank,’” Geiter said. “Then, when they were picked on the alliances, where they got picked was actually kind of a surprise.”

Being their first year in competition, the victory came unexpectedly to this student-run ‘rookie’ team.

“I didn’t expect to get there because we were a new team,” Demeterio said. “We went into this loser bracket. In this loser bracket we had to essentially work our way back up all the way to the finals. The joy that overcame me was immense.”

Initially taking losses throughout the competition, the team took to implementing new methods to lead them to success.

“Both teams completely changed from the day before,” adviser Stephanie Riley said. “They were going slower and moving with more accuracy, and so seeing them start making those problem-solving actions was really cool to see.”

Geiter said he was proud of the team.

“I’m only put off to the side a little bit, while I sponsor the organization, I did not do a lot of mentorship (for) that team, they did a lot of that themselves with the assistance of Mr. Melholland and Mr. Phillips. They’ve both been instrumental in making the team successful,” Geiter said. “At the end of the day, the students did it.”