“Team 303 has transformed me from a quiet and reserved freshman into an outgoing and personable leader.”Owen Busler
Hailing from Bridgewater, New Jersey, The T.E.S.T. Team 303 competes in FIRST Mid-Atlantic Robotics events throughout the year. Based in Bridgewater-Raritan High School, the team participates in two kinds of robotics competitions each year: the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in the winter/early spring, and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) in the fall. Each competition season includes a kickoff, in which that year’s challenge is revealed to teams at the same time worldwide, as well as six weeks for the teams to design, build, and test their robots, and travel to a variety of venues, in which Team 303 competes with and against other students from around the world.
Both corporate and local sponsors are key to the team’s sustainability. These sponsors support the team financially and supply mentors and services, such as sheet metal fabrication. The contributions of the sponsors enable the team members to have the best possible resources, as well as the ability to acquire skills that are applicable to various future professions.
Beginnings (1999 – 2006)
FRC Team 303: Vulgen’s Heroes was created in 1998 as a partnership between Bihler of America, the Midland school and Pingry Academy. After their first season in 1999, Pingry decided to not participate the following year, and Bridgewater-Raritan High School took their place. Throughout the next several years, this new partnership was incredibly successful. The BRHS and Midland students had the opportunity to work alongside real engineers to solve the fun challenge that FIRST created every year, and Bihler engineers enjoyed the challenge of mentoring students and assisting in the creation process, all with tight deadlines. After their second season, the team also changed its name from Vulgen’s Heroes to Panther Robotics, after the mascot of BRHS. Throughout this time period, it was not uncommon for Team 303 to take home event banners from competitions.
After the successful first several seasons for the team, Bihler unfortunately came to the point where they could no longer allow their facilities to be used by the team. This was problematic to the team since their workspace, mentors, and funding all came from Bihler. The team went searching for a new sponsor to replace Bihler, but unfortunately, due to the search and other reasons, Midland decided to leave the team as well. Team 303 was now exclusively part of the Bridgewater-Raritan High School. As the 2007 season approached, things began to look up; while the team did not have one big sponsor to replace Bihler, many smaller donations were starting to fill the gap, but the team was still desperately in need of a build site. After looking at school classrooms, students’ garages, and other solutions, Pressure Tube Manufacturing (PTM), stepped in, and allowed Panther Robotics use of its facilities.
303 Renaissance (2008 – 2010)
With new-found stability, Team 303 went through an era of massive growth and development. They continued working to give back to the community in new ways, such as raking leaves and shoveling snow for the elderly and creating an engineering program for fourth and fifth graders to attend after school. The team also started an off-season event called the Bridgewater-Raritan Battle Royale or BR2, which was hosted yearly in late May and attended by roughly thirty teams. The team also started several green initiatives such as recycling metal scraps and cans, collecting old cell phones and electronics, and cleaning up the high school. These activities both benefited the team and the community. The growth of the team culminated with its successful 2010 season, in which it made waves in both the New Jersey and Connecticut Regionals by making it into semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively, and running a strategy booth to help every team maximize their scouting information.
A New Era (2011)
At the end of 2011, Team 303 lost their workspace once more when, after an ownership change, PTM decided that they would no longer provide a space for the team. Fortunately, the team quickly found a temporary workspace at STS Tire & Auto Center that would give them a place to work during the build season. That temporary workspace turned into a strong partnership and a permanent home for the team. 2011 was a huge year for the team; with the wins of both the New Jersey and Philadelphia Regionals and making it to eliminations at the World Championship. The summer that followed that season, the team formed the Student Leadership Council (SLC). The creation of the SLC was a huge milestone that marked a large transition of power from the mentors/advisors to the students.
Testing… (2012 – Present)
After deciding their team name and colors were not unique, Panther Robotics became The T.E.S.T. Team 303 with a unique teal color and vibrant test pattern logo, specifically SMPTE color bars, or Engineering Guideline EG 1-1990. T.E.S.T. stands for Technologists, Engineers, Students, and Teachers, the major groups that make up the team. The change was a massive success that lead to the team winning the Imagery award at their second competition of the season. 2013 was an even better season for the team.. Team 303 was one of the top teams in their region, qualified for the World Championship, then ended up being the captain of the alliance that went on to win the entire division. The team had another monumental year in 2014, not only winning the Chairman’s award for the first time ever at a district event, but they won it again at the regional championship, beating teams who have been winning it consistently for years. The future’s looking bright for The T.E.S.T. Team; they recently acquired a major new sponsor that specializes in metal fabrication. But, no matter what happens in the future, the team has shown its ability to conquer any challenge and be a source of inspiration in its school, community, and world.