Robotics Technology In Action: Nemesis Tours NAVAIR
On June 5, 2016, FIRST Robotics Team Nemesis 2590 traveled to the US Naval Air Engineering Center in Lakehurst, NJ, to tour the NAVAIR robotics lab and facilities. Naval Air Systems, a key sponsor for the team, develops aircraft propulsion and arrestment techniques for use on the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers, as well as autonomous robotics systems that can accomplish certain tasks aboard ships at sea. After attending Nemesis’ Sponsor Networking Night, NAVAIR’s outreach manager, Mr. Gaetan Mangano, kindly invited the team to the base, where they were able to see the same technology they use every year to compete being applied in a professional field.
Upon arrival, Mr. Mangano led the team in for a presentation on the basics of NAVAIR’s technology, showcasing the broad spectrum of engineering careers essential to designing, building, and maintaining technology for the Navy. Following the presentation, students were a challenged to test their design skills in a catapult competition! Nemesis divided up into teams of three to design and build their own rudimentary catapults out of sticks, marshmallows, and masking tape.
After building, Nemesis was given a rare opportunity to tour the facilities of the Navy’s Hangar One, where the NAVAIR lab was located.The hangar itself was an engineering marvel, built on a gigantic scale, which once housed the German LZ-129 Hindenburg before it exploded during a docking incident at the facility in 1937. The team visited a scaled-down aircraft carrier runway in the hangar, and the robotics lab itself.
In the lab, Nemesis members were thrilled when the software engineers demonstrated one of their projects-- a robotic munitions cart to be used on aircraft carriers. Better yet, they even let students drive the robot and find bugs in the code! It was a remarkable insight into the work of real robotics engineers in industry, greatly appreciated by the aspiring engineers of Nemesis. Robot driver Christian Gavalchin said, “I was blown away by the familiarity of the NAVAIR lab-- it was so similar to the work we do! That was awesome to see.”
When the tours were over, the team ate lunch and launched their catapults before returning to the lab for the last activity of the day-- their own presentation! Nemesis Build Team members demonstrated their robots, Bellerophon and Daedalus, to NAVAIR Engineers, while the Marketing Team detailed the complex business and financial challenges of a successful competition season, something that that many of the engineers knew all too well from their own work.
NAVAIR employees seemed just as impressed with the accomplishments of Nemesis as the team members were with them. It was a thrilling and inspiring experience for the team, who extends their thanks to Mr. Mangano and his welcoming coworkers. Thank you to NAVAIR, for your generous sponsorship, and also your invitation to tour a real-life robotics lab! Your investment in the future will return great rewards.