VA Robotics Team’s Road to the New England Tournament

The Vermont Academy Robotics team, the Wired Cats, had an exciting triumph in early February, claiming the second-place finish in the Vermont State FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge. Their success landed them a spot in an upcoming tournament.
At the FIRST Tech Challenge, the team placed third after qualifying rounds, received second place for the Alliance Team Captain round, collaborating with the Manchester Machine Makers, and took home the third place Innovate Award, and second place for the Design Award.

These triumphs gave the Wired Cats a slot in the upcoming New England Regional Tournament at the Big E in Springfield, MA on April 5; a massive accomplishment for the Wired Cats as it has been their most successful run in recent history.

The tournament hosts the best of the best from any New England state, competing in the Big E's Coliseum, the A Barn, and Young buildings. They will be competing for a chance to be crowned New England Champions in front of 5,000+ spectators. The qualification rounds start at 11:30 am and the event will be live streamed.

We asked the Wired Cats about their experiences, successes, and how they feel about where they’re headed.

Oliver Walsh-Fischetti ’25,  a second-year Wired Cat, said that being a driver (robot operator) in the FTC competition was “surprisingly stressful”, but the camaraderie between teams eased the tension. “The people at the competitions are all willing to help each other even though we are competing against one another.”

Now, looking ahead to the tournament, the Wired Cats are treating the competition as another opportunity for learning.

“It's a very exciting experiment to meet all the other robotics experts in the state and beyond,” said three-year Wired Cat Raymond Feng ’25. “While proving to them the capabilities of our team, we can also learn a lot from them.”

“I look forward to seeing what other teams do with their systems, as well as seeing some of the oldest teams in the sport,” said Mason Evans ’25, who is also in his second year as a Wired Cat. “A lot of the Massachusetts teams are some of the oldest in the sport, so it'll be cool to see what they do.”

Ultimately, the Wired Cats attribute their success to their differences. “What makes us such a successful team is our diversity; both in where we're from and who we are as students,” Mason shared. “Because our Robotics afternoon activity only runs during one trimester, it is not the main sport or activity at VA for most of us. We have mountain bikers, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, and baseball players. Robotics gives us a non-athletic example of sportsmanship.”

First-year Wired Cat Cam Burchinal ’25 has been loving her time on the team so far. “Everyone [on the team] tries to work together- and Mr. Echanis ’79 does a good job keeping us focused,” she shared.

“We're always collecting everyone's ideas, encouraging people to try and put the best of them together. We learn from mistakes and never blame anyone,” Raymond added. “I look forward to getting the camera system ready and scoring more points on autonomous driving, along with better driving. We want to be a better us than we were in February.”

To learn more about the competition, visit nefirst.org/nedcmp.
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.