After a build season, competition begins for “The Hitchhikers”

John Yildiz , Photography Editor

After a month of planning, building and wiring together a new robot, FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 2059, The Hitchhikers, have begun to compete in FIRST Robotics Competitions. Their new robot, Zaphod, has participated in two competitions so far and will continue to do so while this year’s FRC challenge is still in place.

The vision of FIRST, For Inspiration of Science and Technology, is to show students of every age that science, technology and problem-solving are fun while at the same time are proven paths to careers in engineering and technology. Every year, FIRST hosts FRC to combine the atmosphere and excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Every year a new challenge is given to FIRST teams. Based off this challenge, teams will build their robots accordingly, attempting to make the most well-rounded and efficient robot.

The challenges usually consist of an arena with three robots inside. At the start of each match, the robots participate in a ten second autonomous period, where the robot is moving completely on the coding put into it by the programmers of the respective team. Usually, more points are awarded in the autonomous period. Following this a 90 second driving portion where drivers of the respective teams step up to drive their robots. This year’s challenge is called “Aerial Assist.”

The goal of Aerial Assist is to use three robots to maneuver a 2’ exercise ball down the arena while racking up more points on the ball when passing and throwing it between robots. The points can scored when they are launched into the air by a robot into a into a 6 foot goal. A ball without any assists is worth ten points and every assist following is ten more points on that ball. For example, a ball thrown over the tross, a steel bar that is suspended over the playing field, caught, passed afterwards and shot, is worth 40 points.

“Before FIRST and The Hitchhikers, I had a limited knowledge of anything about robotics and even parts of engineering. Through my experiences in FIRST, I think I grew my knowledge base and gained valuable skills for life,” said Corey Goodfred, senior on The Hitchhikers.

During robotics competitions, several FIRST teams come together with their robots and compete in Aerial Assist. While this progresses, alliances and friendships are formed and awards are given out. FIRST teams play a multitude of qualifying matches, which can easily result in over 100 matches depending on the number of teams, and then move on to the final matches. When the teams advance after qualifiers, they pick each other to make alliances. The teams that were in the lead for the qualifiers can pick any two teams to ally themselves with; the teams that are not chosen in this period do not participate in the final matches. So far, the Hitchhikers have participated in the NC regionals and the SC Palmetto regionals.

As of now, students of Athens that are members of The Hitchhikers include Corey Goodfred, Austen Adler, Sahil Dhawan, seniors;  Daniel Christie, Sidd Gandhi, Sahil Dhawan, Nicholas Losi, David Brain, Will Brown and Charlie Xue, juniors; and Ian Adler, sophomore.. The Hitchhikers also contain several other members that go to other schools or are homeschooled. The Hitchhikers meet at either the Goodfred’s or the Losi’s house to build, maintain, and plan their robots. During the SC Palmetto regional, Sidd Gandhi won the Hard Hat award for demonstrating an effective culture of safety. In addition to the Hard Hat award, one of the Hitchhiker’s mentors, Richard Coutant, won the Woodie Flowers award for inspiring, leading and empowering students using communication skills.

Richard Coutant, mentor for The Hitchhikers, said, “I do a lot for the First community but so do others. It  is an honor to receive it, but I’m not in it for collecting awards.   I know it was because of the passion of the students who wrote the essay that I was ultimately chosen.  My reward is seeing the students develop and do things they didn’t think they could or would. Like writing a winning essay.”

To find out more about The Hitchhikers go to