Students from Parker Junior High School recently successfully competed in a robotic competition, placing eleventh out of 27 teams, most of them made up of Chicago-area high school students.
On Dec. 19, the Tech Ninja Team competed at the Highland Park FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Qualifier. FTC, an international program that brings science, problem solving and programming to middle school and high school students, has over 5,000 teams participating worldwide. It requires teams to build robots to complete challenges. This year’s challenge is called FIRST RES-Q.
The Tech Ninja Team included students Hannah Beezie, Kelvin Caleb Clark Jr., Josiah Griggs, Lauren Matthews, Kate Nelson, Calvin Uecker, Jeremy Wesley, and Ashley White. Coaches were Mark Matthews, Cameron Nelson and Rick Uecker.
The team members and coaches worked extremely hard over many Friday and Saturday evenings at the Homewood Science Center to prepare the robot for their first competition. The day of the competition was both stressful and exciting. It started with an early morning; team members had to be at the competition by 7:30 a.m. The team was judged on both its decisions for the robot’s program and design.
The competition required teams to build a robot to perform many tasks. The tasks chosen to do were up to the team. The tasks included climbing up a structure called the mountain with different zones, parking in one of the floor goals, activating the team’s beacon by finding a certain color and pushing a button, moving debris into floor goals and dropping climbers from either the robot or the mountain into a basket. Debris was a mix of cubes and Wiffle balls of similar size.
Chosen tasks had to be done in two-and-a half minutes. The first 30 seconds of that time had to be performed by the robot running a program using sensors to navigate the playing field and operating without input from the team. During the remaining two minutes the robot actied on inputs from the team’s drivers while running a program written by the team.
The Tech Ninja Team chose to move debris, drop two pre-loaded climbers into the basket and park in the lowest zone of the mountain or in one of the floor goals. This gave the team about 50 points each time.
Then it was on to the main part of the day, the qualification matches. While two drivers and a coach would be running the robot, the rest of the team would be cheering them on and be prepared to fix any damage done to the robot on the field. Each team had five matches, each time with different alliances. The alliance for each round was a randomly picked team whose job it was to help members win that match.
By the end of the qualification matches, the Tech Ninja team ranked eleventh out of 27 teams. Most of the other teams were made up of high school students. Even though the team didn’t make it into the elimination rounds, on its own it was selected to join an alliance with another team in the elimination rounds. In addition, the Tech Ninja Team was a finalist for the PTC design award.
Even though there were some ups and downs to the day it was definitely enjoyable. For its first run the Tech Ninja Team did extremely well. The team will have another qualifier on Jan. 23 at the Chicago Math and Science Academy, where members hope to do even better.
Lauren Matthews is a Parker Junior High School student.