Robotics

Fang Wang, the coach for Team USA during 2021’s FIRST Global Challenge

A robotics collective consisting of students from Plano ISD, Frisco ISD and Coppell ISD is gearing up for future championships after becoming the first American team to win a gold medal in FIRST Global, an international robotics competition.

The victory happened as the team, 8565 Technicbots, was appointed to represent the United States as “Team USA” in the Olympic-style competition. In this capacity, the Technicbots won three awards: a gold medal for the “Discover and Recover Award,” another gold medal for the “Grand Challenge Award: Environmental Category” and a silver medal for “Global Challenge Award: Environmental Category.” The former two awards were won in the team’s partnership with Team Zimbabwe.

According to Fang Wang, a software engineer at IBM who works as the team’s coach, the Technicbots were selected as Team USA after they won an honor dubbed the “Inspire Award,” which they won in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Despite this slate of previous awards, Wang described the Technicbots’ Team USA selection as unexpected.

“[When] they sent us an email saying, ‘You are Team USA,’ we thought it was spam,” she said.

The team consisted of 14 students from high schools in Frisco, Plano and Coppell. Over the duration of FIRST Global, the team was given three different challenges, the main one which involved creating a device to solve a real-world problem. For this endeavor, the Technicbots created a “water robot” that was designed to pick up plastic waste from oceans.

With FIRST Global having concluded this past fall, Technicbots is preparing for regional and national qualifiers that are slated to start as early as December and end in late April. The team also devotes time to outreach and charitable work through Flyset, a nonprofit organization started by the Technicbots that provides personal protective equipment to clinics and 3D prints face shields and ear guards for health care workers.

“The team has different talents,” Wang explained. “It’s kind of [like] running a small company.”

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