Wilton Library’s shiny, multi-levered robot advanced, spun, lifted and dodged its way through a good performance, but it was the library’s Singularity Technology team as a whole that won the Inspire Award, the top prize at last Saturday’s State FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Competition. The win secured the group’s position as the number one team in Connecticut, and will now propel them on to the World Championships in Detroit at the end of April.

According to the FTC organization’s website, “The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, by designing, building, and programming a robot to compete in an alliance format against other teams.”

“To say we are proud of these kids is an understatement,” beamed Susan Lauricella, Wilton Library’s Makerspace and teen services manager. “They meet twice a week throughout the school year, they work together as a team, and some of them have been together for years. Their diligence, tenacity, perseverance and dedication have been evident throughout their time together. They’ve worked really hard for this accomplishment and it has paid off.”

The Inspire Award is presented to the team exhibiting dedication and professionalism. The FIRST judges take into account not only the team’s technical achievements, such as producing a superb engineering notebook, but the recognition also acknowledges the team’s overall development–working with other teams, empathy, leadership and respect for others.

Lauricella put the achievement in perspective. “There are approximately 8,000 FTC teams that compete worldwide in 35+ countries; Connecticut is only allowed to send two teams to Worlds. By winning the Inspire Award, it means that Singularity Technology is the number one team in Connecticut. That’s why we are so proud of our team!”

Wilton Library first formed Singularity Technology in 2013 and to date it is still the only library-based team in the state of Connecticut. This year’s team members are Aarushi Agrawal, Alex Cameron, Edwin Gregory, Navod Jayawardhane, Chris McCann, Rishab Ohri, Ria Raniwala, Rishabh Raniwala, Rohit Singal, and Shayna Wilson-Spiro. Navod, Rishabh and Rohit are seniors who have been on the team together since eighth grade, so this is a particularly poignant time for them.

Besides Lauricella, the team’s other mentors include Tom Abend, Paul Lauricella and Thomas Kozak, all of who have been with the team throughout its seven-year development, which also includes a “farm team” of younger students called TAP (Test and Prototype). The TAP kids help test engineering phases, and the process prepares the younger students for the team as they move into high school.

The idea of a library robotics team came to fruition when Susan’s husband, Paul, a software engineer and former commercial pilot, lamented that, “There isn’t a library program for teens who liked engineering nerd stuff.”

Singularity Technology will be going to Detroit mainly on the funds raised throughout the year with bake sales and its “Destroy Your Hard Drive” fundraiser held annually in November. Anyone wishing to support their effort and spur the team on may send donations payable to Wilton Library to Susan Lauricella at Wilton Library, 137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897, marked “for robotics team.”