The robot created by the “Monty Pythons” of Proviso Math and Science Academy had to shoot basketballs through a hoop to compete in the U.S. F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Midwest Regional competition. Along with two other robots, it also had to balance on a ramp Saturday at the UIC Pavilion.
“Monty VI” came home with 2nd place at the robotics championship. The Monty Pythons team name is a spoof on the school mascot, the Purple Python. Monty made it through the first cut of 90 teams and then allied with robots from the Wild Stangs team (Schaumburg) and Team Hammond from Hammond, Ind.
Parent volunteer Andrea Blaylock, mother of Monty Python teammate Brandon, says the team needed a win.
“This win will boost team morale and get things going,” she said. “Last year the team didn’t place well. They had difficulties with the robot.”
Another setback in the team’s past was the death of beloved PMSA science teacher, Tom Dix in September 2009. Dix, who was 39 at the time of his death, started the Monty Pythons. He was quoted in his obituary as saying, “My mission in life is to help teenagers grow up in a good way. I get paid, however, to teach Physics and Engineering.” The school dedicated their innovation lab to Dix in 2009. Seniors now on the team were in Mr. Dix’s first robotics club.
Five students on the current Monty Pythons team hail from Forest Park. They are Karthika Nair, Arianna Vargas, Brandon Blaylock, Sreejith Nai and Ethan Rose.
The team has two teacher mentors, Cynthia Daniels and Mark Petrynek. Also volunteering are three engineering mentors who coach the students through the design-and-build process to create the robot. “[The engineers] support the students’ ideas and challenge them,” said Blaylock. “They keep the kids on task.”
The robotics team meets Monday through Friday after school. For the first half of the year, the team works on fundraising to pay for equipment and supplies. Monty Rumble was financed this year by donations from Triton College, JC Penney, Interlake Mecalux, mentor Branden Gunn, family and friends and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
The second part of the year is the “build season.” The kids build the robot, staying after school every day, sometimes until 7 p.m. “This is like their sport,” said Blaylock. “It’s so technical and intricate that they need a level of commitment.”
On April 7, the team will show off Monty at the Museum of Science and Industry for National Robotics Week.
“The team pulled it off this year and it’s been great for them,” Blaylock said.