As one of Pitsco’s educational consultants, I work with a region of the US and assist with varied educational initiatives for schools. But one of the best parts of our work is when we get to be in schools or at events, meeting with students, educators, mentors, and volunteers.
At the end of February, I had the privilege of going to my first FIRST® Tech Challenge state championship after receiving a gracious invitation from the affiliate partner for the state of Illinois.
I road-tripped to Elgin Community College (just west of Chicago), about 1,400 miles round trip from our home campus in Pittsburg, KS. In Elgin, I saw 44 highly talented teams compete by participating in the RELIC RECOVERYSM game.
Ultimately, my goals were to supply the teams with TETRIX® spare parts, meet the team members, and offer Pitsco’s support. I observed many things during the course of the competition, but what stood out to me the most was the teams and their robots. Which is exactly as it should be at a robotics competition, right?!
The Team Names
The first thing that got my attention was the team names. I can tell you one thing for a fact: these students are extremely creative, especially with their names!
My nonofficial top five team picks for best name:
- PowerSurge 2.0 (@PowerSurgeRobotics) – They showed tremendous spirit as displayed in this video where you can hear teammates chanting, “2.0, 2.0, 2.0!!”
- WormGear Warriors (@ftc8620wormgear) – I might be a little biased here, but we have a TETRIX MAX Worm Gear Box, so it has to be a winner.
- NYAN Robotics (@NyanRobotics) – They happened to be part of the winning alliance, and their name stands for “Not Your Average Nerds.” Super creative!
- Fruit Salad (@FruitSalad8817) – They were the proud recipient of the Motivate Award. Congratulations!
- got robot? (@got_robot) – They’ve been competing for an impressive 10 years!
While the names were impressive, that’s only the beginning. The speed, the length of the arms, and the interesting ways parts were used for the robots blew my mind. Some teams used TETRIX MAX Wheels as part of their gripper to hold onto the crypto boxes. The wheels spun, enabling the glyphs to be guided into the chamber and then led to the respective crypto boxes.
Many used our omni wheels, gaining maneuverability around the course. These wheels enabled the robots to move in all four directions fairly easily: forward, backward, right, and left.
Check out the wheels in the video below.
The beauty of TETRIX’s versatility showed throughout the competition, from the wheels being used as a gripping mechanism to the various beams being used in the construction of the arms to grab the glyphs.
The flexibility and the durability of the TETRIX system makes it great for a competition and useful for any classroom!
Other reflections, thanks to the teams and the competition:
- Learning can happen even while you’re having fun!
- Robotics requires creativity, and it’s easy to get the creative juices flowing with so much awesomeness surrounding you.
- Getting hands on is vital to learning.
FIRST competition thrives on teamwork and collaboration, and they’re the two keys that make it a great learning environment!
As I Considered these thoughts, it became clear:
- TETRIX is fun.
- TETRIX inspires you to let the creativity flow.
- TETRIX lets you get in on the action and get your hands dirty.
- TETRIX definitely allows for teamwork and collaboration.
It’s amazing how you travel somewhere to assist learners but end up learning yourself. I guess that’s what’s called going full circle, right? So thanks to all the teams who attended this FIRST competition for all the knowledge and creativity you shared. I can’t wait to see more from the competitions this spring!