Robots take over?

A guy dressed as a Rock’em Sock’em robot.

Kaitlin Specht
News Writer

This past Saturday, March 2, the first Pennsylvania FIRST Tech Challenge took place in the Marauder Court area of the Student Memorial Center (SMC). This year’s 2012-2013 FTC Championship Tournament Inspire Award winner went to 365, MOE and Winning Alliance Captain 4399, Autobots for advancing to the FTC World Championship.

A guy dressed as a Rock’em Sock’em robot.
A guy dressed as a Rock’em Sock’em robot.

FIRST, meaning For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, overall has more than 120,000 volunteers and more than 3,500 sponsors. It has five different programs, one of which is the FTC for grades 7-12 where robots are built using aluminum, and reusable, modular robotics platforms. So far for this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge, there were at least 2,500 teams with 25,000 student participation. Along with participation, the program offers over $10.4 million in college scholarships.
This past Saturday’s event, Ring it Up!, was the championship tournament which is the largest regional or state event. There are six FTC event types: Workshop, Kick-off, Scrimmage, Qualifying Tournament, Championship Tournament, and World Championship. This is the second to last level in order to qualify for the FTC World Championship. The 2012-2013 FTC World Championship is April 24-27 at the Edward Jones Dome, America’s Center, St. Louis, Mo.

The matches took place on a 12’ X 12’ diamond shaped field in which two teams compete.
The matches took place on a 12’ X 12’ diamond shaped field in which two teams compete.

The event kicked off with opening ceremonies, followed by qualification matches, alliance selections, semifinals, finals, and ending with awards and closing ceremonies. Matches consisted of a 12’x12’ diamond shaped field in which two alliances (comprised of two teams each) compete in 30-second periods, followed by a two minute driver controlled period. The objective is to score more points than your opponent’s alliance by placing 18 regular plastic rings (26 available rings per alliance), and 6 special “weighted” rings and 2 pre-load autonomous rings that carry extra bonus points, onto pegs on the center rack.
To get an idea how scoring works, below is a list of the point system from FTCPenn.org:

Autonomous Period Scoring:
Placing Autonomous Ring on the IR Beacon Column: 50 Points
(An Autonomous Ring placed on any other column will mark ownership of the peg.)

Match Scoring:
Rings placed on the center floor goal: 1 point each
Rings placed on level one: 5 points each
Rings placed on level two: 10 points each
Rings placed on level three: 15 points each
Line Score Bonus (3 owned pegs in a row) 30 points each

Multiplier Bonus:
Weighted Ring on any Corner Goal: 20% for 1
(20% added to Ring Score 40% for 2 and Line Score Bonus per each Weighted ring placed) 60% for 3 etc.

End Game Lift Scoring:
Robot lifted at least 1”: 30 points
Additional inches up to 24”: 5 points per inch

There was also a lot of line dancing in between each round to different songs in order to celebrate and motivate one another. Liam Lieberman, senior, mentioned how, “it’s a tradition for students,” as a few wearing their own costumes danced around to songs like “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.
Cody McLaughlin, Millersville University student volunteer for FTC, mentioned how some students were dressed in black and green body suits and even at least one student dressed in full-metal amour. McLaughlin said how it was, “similar to comic con—but with robots.”
FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen back in 1989 to inspire young students to be creative, innovative, to utilize engineering and technology skills, and become science and technology leaders. According to the Usfirst.org web site, Kamen wanted the program to, “transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
Thomas A. Zowislak, FTC Pennsylvania Affiliate Partner, talked about the event and how it is an international program that encourages middle school and high school students to utilize thinking skills and learn how to communicate beyond competing with robots. Most importantly, Zowislak mentioned, is that students are encouraged to have fun. “Without them,” Zowislak went on to say, “this would not be possible.”
Allen Griscom, Coach Member for Team 5944 Live Wire, also said how this program was, “inspiring, endearing, challenging, and brilliant.”

The objective is to place 18 plastic rings, 6 weighted rings onto pegs on the center rack.
The objective is to place 18 plastic rings, 6 weighted rings onto pegs on the center rack.

FIRST’s major sponsors include Rockwell Automation, LEGO Education North America, and NASA. These organizations have developed a relationship with FIRST where employees are encouraged to volunteer as either mentors, judges, referees or other positions. Other forms of support include: shipping FLL team and Operational Partner orders in the U.S., major contribution to new regional events, and providing thousand hours of volunteer time and program support. Kenny Wexler, senior, from Team 5320 RoboLancers, explained how time consuming and hard work goes into building a team’s robot. “From the process we go through, there’s a lot of trial and error.”
FTC’s main goal is to provide young students with the ability to develop self-confidence, communication, and science, engineering and technology leadership skills. Each team is made up of 10 students where designing, building, and programing come into play regarding alliance competitions. Coaches, mentors, and volunteers are also a part of these teams where they help to develop strategy and use engineering principles.
Team 54888 Robodragons from Freire Charter School in Philadelphia, Pa., said how they began their robotics project since this past October. Sylvette Mikell, senior, said how she had been a part of the program since her freshman year in high school. Najay Greenidge, team member, also mentioned how this was their team’s second year competing and how much the judges think they are a special team. “We were terrible last year, lost funding, but fought for it,” Greenidge said, and was complimented by Mikell’s comment of, “we are resilient.”
A total of six awards were given for this year’s FTC competition: the Inspire Award, Rockwell Collins Innovate Award, PTC Design Award, Connect Award, Motivate Award, Think Award, and the Judge’s Award (“Against All Odds” Award).
For all judges, the deciding factor was intense, according to Amanda Osbun, Millersville University student majoring in Tech Ed. “We look for team spirit, not just how the robots work.”

Partcipants in the challenge (from left to right), Nathaniel Lieberman, Connelly Richards, Steven Zuponcic, Brian Cameron, Alicia Griscom and Allen Griscom.
Partcipants in the challenge (from left to right), Nathaniel Lieberman, Connelly Richards, Steven Zuponcic, Brian Cameron, Alicia Griscom and Allen Griscom.

The inspire award was given to Team 365 MOE from FIRST State Robotics in Wilmington, D.E., for showing team spirit while still maintaining professionalism. This team was able to show exceptional analytic problem-solving, developing options and implementing solutions.
The Rockwell Collins Innovate Award was given to Team 6048 Girls in Black from the Hudson STEM Alliance in Hudson, O.H. for their robot’s design that clearly mimicked that of a human’s behavior.
The PTC Design Award was given to Team 4977 LANLords from Lancaster FTC in Millersville, P.A. where there robot’s design and 3D modeling was the best.
The Connect Award was given to Team 5320 RoboLancers Gold from Central High School RoboLancers in Philadelphia, P.A. for their positive community outreach abilities.
The Motivate Award was given to Team 6022 TBD from Aurora Robotics in Aurora, O.H. for their enthusiasm and positive attitudes during the competition.
The Think Award was given to Team 3415 Lancers from Livingston High School in Livingston, N.J. for their team’s documented notebook filled with their design details, process, and journey.
And the final award, the Judge’s Award, went to Team 3900 Return of Comet Donati from the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy in Pittsburgh, P.A. for being able to traveling all the way from across the state. According to Thomas A. Zowislak, FTC Pennsylvania Affiliate Partner, this team, “worked feverishly in the PIT.”