Vermont Academy Robotics “The Wired Cats” Advance to New England Championships

On February 10, 2024, The Vermont Academy Robotics team, “The Wired Cats”, attended the Vermont State FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Championships at Lamoille Union High School, Hyde Park, VT.
As the world’s technology evolves, young minds exploring innovation in this way are vital in shaping the future of technology and engineering. As the spokesperson for the FTC Event phrased it, “This generation of STEM leaders and the next are truly the key to saving the world, and we must do all we can to believe in them by preparing them and celebrating them.”

“This year's Wired Cats team is a mix of four experienced designers, coders, builders, and operators who worked hard on the systems and made the seven new members feel comfortable enough to make significant contributions to the team,” reported Head Coach and Science Department Chair Joe Echanis ’79. “Their design process was very thorough. They started working on three different systems with all of the components that might be successful and eventually chose the elements that best fit their initial design criteria. Once at the competition, they continued to improve their team tactics.”

The team included Cam Burchinal ’26, Laura Daum Iglesias ’26, Aloycia Deogratias ’26, Ellis Dunbar ’24, Chris Eineberg ’25, Mason Evans ’26, Raymond Feng ’25, Sydney Palmiotto ’24, Luke Pennell ’26, Ethan Muenkel ’24, and Oliver Walsh-Fischetti ’25.

The Wired Cats competed at various times throughout the morning and afternoon. It was a team competition in which a random pair of teams allied to attempt to outscore the opposing teams with their robots. Nineteen teams representing schools all across Vermont were involved in at least five matches. In the competition, the top eight teams made it to the semifinals based on their scores in the qualifying rounds. 

The Wired Cats did a fantastic job with their robot, winning the first qualification round with a score of 57 to 46. They were part of the winning alliance in Qualification Round 20 with a whopping 112 points- the highest score at that point in the competition. After the Qualification Rounds, the Wired Cats ranked 3rd out of 19 teams, qualifying them for the semifinals. In qualifying, they scored the highest score of 129 points. 

After alliance selections, a critical part of the competition, the team earned a second place finish in the competition. They also won second place for the Design Award and third place for the Innovate Award. According to the presenter, recipients of the Innovate Award “have the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. Elements of the award include elegant design, robustness, and out-of-the-box thinking.”

These accolades, namely the second place Design Award finish in the competition, landed the Wired Cats a place in the New England Championships at the Big E in Springfield, MA in early April! 

“I love that they really like working with each other. They ideate well as a team by listening to and building on each other's ideas,” Mr. Echanis ’79 shared after the wins. “They truly understand what it means to be an effective design team! They keep improving on past Wired Cats successes.” 

This has been the most successful Robotics team in recent VA history. In 2023, the team was a Semifinalist Alliance Partner and came in 3rd Place for the Design Award. In 2020, they were the top qualifying team from Vermont and the Semifinalist Alliance Captain team.

You can watch the full day of competitions and awards at this recorded livestream link. The Wired Cats are team number #8304.

Be sure to follow along as we chronicle The Wired Cats’ New England Championships journey in April.
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.