Two Robotics teams from District 113, the combined teams of Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools in Illinois, are headed to the First Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championships in St. Louis between April 23, 2014April 26, 2014. Team 3785, the Beastie Bots, and Team 5452, Robot to the Knee, are two out of four teams from Illinois headed to the championship. Out of over 3000 teams around the world which competed this season, there are 100 teams from the United States and 28 teams from around the world heading to St. Louis to compete in the World Championship next week.
The Beastie Bots qualified to compete in the World Championship by being part of the third place alliance at the FTC North Superregional Championship held in Iowa in early April. Prior to that they were part of the Illinois State winning alliance, state champions for the second year in a row. This is their 4th trip to the FTC World Championship.
Robot to the Knee, in their second year, is making their first appearance at the FTC World Championship. They were part of the fourth place alliance at the North Superregional Championship in Iowa and were selected by the judges as contenders for the Innovate Award. Prior to Superregionals, they received the Think Award at the Indiana State Tournament.
The FTC robotics program requires teams to construct and program a completely new robot each year. Each team consist of up to 15 students in grades 7 through 12 in which the students work with adult coaches and mentors, to do hands-on STEM learning and develop 21st Century skills by designing, programming, and building a robot. The teams and robots then work together to compete in matches.
This year’s game is called “Block Party!” The robots must pick up small blocks and place them in baskets on the “pendulum,” a seesaw mechanism that tips when one side is too heavy. (A balanced pendulum scores extra points) At the end of the game, robots can earn extra points by doing a “pull up” on a bar or by raising a flag.
FTC robotics encourages collaboration among teams as well as “gracious professionalism”. The teams don’t just compete on their own. They are always paired with another team several different ones in the course of a competition. The teams need to work with one another to complete the challenge. Through this process, participants learn to network and communicate “professionally” with their alliance members, reallife skills that will serve them well in any field they choose to pursue. In final alliance selection, there’s also an element of strategy and negotiations that participants learn. At the end of the qualifying matches at each event, those teams that placed highest are allowed to pick teams that will be their alliance partners for the semifinals and finals. That requires scouting. “When you scout you have to judge, not just on a team’s record, but how their robot would work with ours,” says Robot to the Knee team member Sam Ephraim, a freshman at Highland Park High School. “So, depending on whether we are one of the highest ranked teams picking our partners or we are one of the teams that are chosen to be alliance partners, our success in making it to the final rounds and our performance in them depends on scouting the other teams’ performance, strategy, networking and advocating our team’s strengths,” he further explained. “FIRST Tech Challenge empowers students to explore science and technology,” says senior and Beastie Bots team co-captain Jacob Burroughs who is a Senior at Highland Park High School. “Through this program, students are able to connect with the engineering community and gain great handson experiences.” He added, “FTC robotics introduced me to computer programming. As a result, I took AP Computer Science last year and am planning to further pursue computer science in college. FTC allowed me to discover the value of iterating, testing, and improving to arrive at in improved solution to a problem. Also, the Robotics Team has offered me an excellent opportunity to develop my leadership skills,” Shira Shartiag, the cocaptain of the Beastie Bots and a Senior at Highland Park High School agrees. “With FIRST Robots, there is only one problem, but there are thousands of solutions. It is the hardest fun you’ll ever have!”
Outside of all the competition, both teams have participated in several programs to help reach out into the community and inspire younger students to get involved in Robotics. They have taken their robot to Northbrook Court where they have talked to shoppers and kids about the Robotics program, they promoted FTC at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Robotic Week Celebration. They also presented at the First Lego League (FLL) State Tournament where they encouraged FLL team members to pursue their love of engineering in high school. In addition, Robot to the Knee has helped start FLL teams at two middle schools: Edgewood Middle School in Highland Park and Stanton Middle School in Fox Lake.
The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship, Presented by Qualcomm, will be held on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Edward Jones Dome, home of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, in St. Louis, Missouri. 128 teams will compete for the top spots in FTC. This year's Beastie Bots contain six members, who are juniors and seniors. The team consists of Jacob Burroughs, Shira Shartiag, Sam Chase, Rory Miller, Ben Rubin, and Justin Garfinkle. Other Highland Park Robotics members Max Mesirow, Michael Rascati, Barrett Turnoy, and AJ Zasky will be assisting the team at the World Championships.
This year’s Robot to the Knee team consists of eight members, most of whom are freshmen and sophomores: Sam Ephraim, Max Grosshandler, Max Lowery, Daniel Mouscher, Kyle Rabin, Alec Ratnaswamy, Aaron Retsky, Pia Sanpitak. They have been mentored by Mr. Patiant Sanpitak, a parent volunteer who works for Siemens. For more information about the FTC World Championship, please visit http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/ftcworldchampionship