WATCH: The Matrix, Merritt Island’s First Robotics Team Impressive at Turning Nothing into Something

By  //  March 21, 2019

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Team Nearly Advanced to World Championships

SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Led by Mentors Leslie Leutbecker, an honors biology teacher at Edgewood, Rich Keinath a Navy engineer and Frank Lavra, who works as a project manager at Kennedy Space Center, the Matrix is Merritt Island’s FIRST robotics team.

BREVARD COUNTY • MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA – Did you know that Brevard County has it’s very own version of the “Matrix?”

While these “Matrices” arent on the big screen, they do provide a great deal of hope that the future of science, technology, engineering and math is in very good hands.

Led by Mentors Leslie Leutbecker, an honors biology teacher at Edgewood, Rich Keinath a Navy engineer and Frank Lavra, who works as a project manager at Kennedy Space Center, the Matrix is Merritt Island’s FIRST robotics team.

Their official name is Merritt Island Matrix, First Tech Challenge Team 9013.

The team traces its roots to 2014 when Leutbecker and Keinath were swayed into making the two FIRST Lego League teams into one First Tech Challenge team.

The team currently consists of 15 students that are either homeschooled or attend a Brevard County area school ranging in grades seven through 10.

Team 9013 Matrix: Merritt Island Team Members Include:

• Ethan Pena – Edgewood
• Justin Tito – Edgewood
• Odeh Khanfar – Edgewood
• Mike Richards – Edgewood
• Noah Lehmann – Homeschooled
• Heath Horr – Homeschooled
• Kaley Brown – Homeschooled
• Makaila Johnson – Edgewood
• Jacob Lavra – Edgewood
• Jason Nichols – Edgewood
• Corban Dean – Merritt Island Christian School
• Nate Stewart – Merritt Island Christian School
• Ingrid Persen – Edgewood
• Anna Wallace – Home Schooled
• Sophie Peshek – Home Schooled

The Merritt Island Matrix, First Tech Challenge Team currently consists of 15 students that are either homeschooled or attend a local Brevard County school ranging in grades seven through 10.

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HANDS-ON ROBOTIC EXPERIENCE

The goal is to provide a complete hands-on learning experience involving robotic, programming, engineering, and STEM concepts.

The Matrix are a feeder team for their sister FIRST Robotics Challenge team, Team 801 Horsepower. 

Each team member will eventually move up to the FRC (First Robotics Competition) team, which offers a more advanced level of robotics, and potential college scholarships. 

The team goal is to win the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics competition. This is a challenge where league teams compete in a yearly challenge.

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Every September a new challenge is announced. The challenge consists of several different tasks that score points when successfully completed. Once the challenge is announced, teams have six weeks to build a robot that can complete these tasks, before the first tournament.

There are three qualifying tournaments and a league championship, which the top performing teams in the league are invited to.

Beyond the league championship are the state, super-regional and world championships.

This year’s project was called Rover Ruckus. The Matrix were required to build a robot that would compete against teams collecting minerals and placing them into the lander. A video describing the game and robot requirements is below.

ABOVE VIDEO: FIRST Tech Challenge Game, ROVER RUCKUS presented by Qualcomm.

 OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

The Matrix nicknamed their robot Lil’ Muffin, and they overcame many challenges throughout the season. Their first meet did not go well due to a wiring issue. The wires were subsequently labeled and color-coded to prevent any further mishaps.

The Matrix came in first place at their second meet with a reliable autonomous program and consistent drive team. At the League Championship, the Matrix got picked to be on one of the final alliances along with two other teams.

They won the championship and earned a spot at the State Championship in Jacksonville, Florida on Feb 22 and 23 where after the judging interview and inspections were selected as to be part of the winning alliance

They would advance all the way to the final round where they fell in the third match.

The cost to build a robot like Lil’ Muffin is a little over $3,000 and the Matrix receives a lot of support from local companies like All Points, Northrop Grumman and others.

If you or someone you know has a student that may want to participate and join the Matrix, click here.  If you have an interest in helping the team fund future projects or want to provide sponsorship, click here. 

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