Calendar and News

SCA Robotics Team #1 in the State!

St. Cecilia Academy
the LadyBots, won the First Tech Challenge (FTC) Tennessee State Championship, qualifying the team for the FTC World Championship! 

In a non-COVID year, this win would have meant traveling to Houston, TX, to compete with other U.S. state championships, as well as qualifying international teams for the title of world champs. Unfortunately, due to COVID travel restrictions and health safety concerns, this year’s FTC World Championship has been canceled. However, this news does not detract from the LadyBots many successes over the years.

The SCA LadyBots are a relatively young team, having formed in the 2015-2016 school year. The birth of the LadyBots results from strong student interest, led by Lindsay Leftwich (2017), and the support of SCA Physics teacher, Ashley George. According to Lindsay, the team’s emphasis on inclusion regardless of experience has been their key to success: “We made sure that there truly was a place within the team for anyone interested in robotics regardless of their previous experience or background, and I think that’s why this team became so successful.” SCA joined the FTC program because of the organization’s focus on STEM skills, leadership, and business skills. The program encourages students’ diverse skill sets, with participants building and coding a robot and managing their marketing and budget. Keith Corkum, the programming mentor and father of Katie Corkum, SCA Class of 2017 and founding member of SCA Robotics, praises SCA Robotics as “an enabler, giving students team-building skills, knowledge of programming, electronics, and mechanical design. It lets students experiment in these different areas and truly develop their passions.” The team that demonstrates excellence in all areas, coupled with an ability to articulate their plan and strategy to the FTC judges, is awarded the highest FTC honor – the Inspire Award – and earns the title of state champs. The St. Cecilia Ladybots did just that in April by demonstrating excellence in the design and function of their robot, a well-written engineering, and coding notebook, as well as team and one-on-one oral interviews.

From the team’s inception six years ago, the LadyBots have won awards for programming, design, and innovation. The team has competed three times in the last five years in the Finalist Alliance, which features the four best robots in the state tournament. As the LadyBots have grown in talent, expertise, and size, they welcomed a junior varsity team, the Lil’Bots, to their ranks. The Lil’Bots are trained and mentored by the LadyBots, building their own robot and competing independently at state competitions. In their inaugural year, the Lil’Bots brought home two special awards, the Judges Award for the team that shows the most promise, and the Control Award for innovation in programming.

Robotics is a total commitment during the school year. The game challenge is released in mid-
September. From September to early February, teams design, build, code, and test their robot
while documenting the process in their engineering notebook. Competitions begin in January
and generally go through April. For the last two years, SCA Robotics has hosted the only precompetition
scrimmages in the state. Last year, fifteen teams met on the SCA Campus for a day
of scrimmage fun. This year, due to COVID-protocols, SCA hosted a unique hybrid in-person
and online event. The planning and execution were carried out primarily by the LadyBot and
Lil’Bot management teams.

A successful robotics program relies on strong adult mentorship and support, strong student
leadership and commitment, and generous financial support. Robotics teams must search out
donors to buy parts, materials, and tools, and cover the cost of travel and competitions without
putting an additional financial burden on students and their families. SCA Robotics is grateful
to many generous SCA family sponsors over the years and generous support through Schneider
Electric and the Yarbrough Family Foundation.

SCA Robotics is an excellent avenue for developing in young women many real-world skills that
will prepare them for college and continued work in STEM and many other fields. Not only does
it cultivate a unique combination of analytical and creative thinking, but it offers a hands-on
venue to exercise leadership and managerial skills in a highly collaborative environment. Jule
Voss, SCA class of 2019 and three-year LadyBots member says it best, “…what I found in the
SCA robotics program was a cohort of smart, funny, and perseverant young women that I have
been lucky to call teammate and life-long friends.”