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December 24, 2010 > Ready, Set, Robotics

Ready, Set, Robotics

Fremont team wins qualifying round of FTC

Story and Photos by Rajeswari Ramanathan

Decked out in goggles and matching t-shirts, teams huddled together to discuss their plans, and form strategies to improve before the next round began. On December 19, high school students from across Fremont gathered at Irvington High School for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) - "Get Over It." Introduction and set-up began at 7 a.m. and the finals and awards ceremony lasted until 9 p.m. As described by FTC, teams used the "Tetrix robot kit, which leverages the Mindstorms NXT controller with powerful motors, sophisticated sensors and metal hardware and gears to create a robot to solve the annual challenge."

One of six qualifying events for the Northern California region, the winner of this competition moves on to the Northern California Championship January 19. A total of 17 teams participated, eight from Fremont. Teams were composed of up to 10 students and one mentor. The game called "Get Over It," included two alliances who used their robot to clean out baton dispensers and put 6-inch PVC tubes in stationary or rolling goals. Alliances - of red and blue - were made by combining two teams.

The game was played on a square field composed of mountains, bridges, and two cliffs. While several teams received awards, a Fremont alliance comprised of team Pew Pew Lazer Beam from Mission San Jose High School and Red HoloRAMS from Irvington High School won the tournament.

"Two teams received an 'automatic' bid to the Northern California Championship," said Jill Wilker, an FTC coordinator. "Red HoloRAMS was officially designated as 'home' team and Pew Pew Lazer Beams received a bid based on winning two awards - Captain of the winning alliance as well as winner of the highest award at the tournament, the Inspire Award."

Twenty-eight teams from around Northern California will compete in the Northern California Championship to be held at Newark Memorial High School on January 19. Winners of the competition, as well as students from Canada, Mexico, Europe, and possibly China and Japan, will go to the World Championships on April 27-April 30 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Irvington High School junior Nicholas Yuk, from the winning team said, "The hardest part of the project was programming because only Joraaver [Chahal] could do it well, and finding strategies during matches was difficult, but we hope to outperform [the other teams]at the Northern California Championships." Juniors Joraaver and his twin brother Suchaaver Chalal are the captains for Red HoloRAMS.

While the winners do not receive any monetary awards, they become eligible for many scholarships and get a boost on college applications. For instance, Mary Catalfamo, Drexel University's Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions said, "I must stress how impressed we were with the overall capabilities and talents of all of the FIRST Scholarship applicants. The applicants presented excellent academic qualifications and tremendous abilities or creative thinking, teamwork and team support."

Playing at Learning, a 510(c) (3) nonprofit, has partnered with FIRST to coordinate the PTC program throughout Northern California. The goal of FTC is to "reach young people in high school with the opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology, and engineering."

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