Mind Over Metal
Momentum is building for Cape Fear Academy’s newest team—the Mind Over Metal Robotics Team led by Upper School computer science teacher Carr Fullagar (CFA Class of 2002). Founded last year with a few students interested in robotics, the team now boasts around 20 members, a custom-built robot, and $14,000 in funding from grants and sponsorships.
Mind Over Metal is set to compete in its first robotics competition in the FIRST Robotics Competition circuit in the spring of 2020. The team will receive the challenge for the competition on Jan. 4, and then construct an entirely new robot from scratch prior to the regional competitions in March at East Carolina University and Guilford High School.
“We started to learn the ropes last year because it is a steep learning curve,” Fullagar said. “We had to learn to deal with the actual electronics, we had to program hundreds of lines of code, and had to start marketing it — it really is like a business.”
The first robot the team constructed is named M.O.M. for Mind Over Metal, and because it is the first robot the team created. Building M.O.M. included everything from cutting wood for the frame to coding to using a 3D printer to print parts that didn’t exist. In addition to Fullagar’s guidance, the team has also benefitted from the mentorship of Jean-Paul Louis and Jerald Head (current parent), both of whom are retired engineers.
“It has been really fun to get to learn from people who had done this sort of thing before and know what it would be like if any of us were to pursue a career in it,” said freshman Sebastian Landenberg, class of 2023.
Creating M.O.M. in the offseason has allowed the team to use it as a tangible product to show off to potential sponsors to offset the funding needed for creating the new competition robot, registering for the competition, travel and lodging.
So far, Mind Over Metal has been awarded $10,000 in grant funding from NASA, Duke Energy and United Therapeutics, and is sponsored by local businesses Queensboro, ZV Pate and Brian Weckel MD Family Medicine.
While a majority of the sponsors approached the team through word of mouth, sophomore Anna Knorr, class of 2022, said the team has focused on making it easy for potential sponsors to learn more about the team and its goals.
“Creating a team website and making it easy for people to access and understand is important because it is really important for them to see our goals if they are going to support us,” Knorr said.
When it comes to competition time Mind Over Metal will be paired with two other teams to compete against three other teams from the region. Each team and its robot will then change their partners and repeat the challenge 10 times throughout the competition.
“A lot of the robots only specialize in one thing,” Knorr said. “If one robot is really good at reaching high objects, then it would be paired with other robots that are good at other things like launching or climbing.”
The teams that advance will move on to the state competition and then to the national competition in Houston, Texas.
Building a new robot from scratch in two months will be no easy feat but the team has committed to working during lunch periods, available flex time, after school, and on weekends.
“Success at the end of this season would be competing, doing well, and getting more business and sponsors interested,” Landenberg said. “The more we are recognized and the more support we get I think the more chance we will have to win one of these competitions.”