We, Robot: Robotics teams gear for action

By: Agatha Fenech

Taking their math and science knowledge beyond mere classroom material, members of robotics team First Tech Challenge are headed to League Championship this Saturday, Feb. 7, at Central Middle School, with matches from 11:30-4 p.m.

The event is a contest of 24 teams. “You compete with your robot. Our robot places wiffle/golf balls into large tubes and pushes those tubes up a ramp,” junior Elizabeth Pierce said.

The CFHS team is coached by math and science teacher Ron Hoofnagle and science teacher Meghan Reynolds, and there are two other teams from Cedar Falls junior highs who will also be among the 24 teams competing on Saturday.

This tournament will also serve as a qualifier for the state FTC tournament in Coralville on March 6-7. “We have been building since August. I’m most impressed with the teamwork the students exhibit when working on all the different aspects of the robot, from building to programming to team sponsorship to fundraising,” Reynolds said.

There is much more to FTC than just the competitions. Each team member has specific duties. Pierce handles the engineering notebook and contributes to building the robot. “The engineering notebook is a documentation of all that we do. I include something for every day, goals for next time and what we learned at that meeting,” Pierce said.

FTC also has sponsors, people who have resources and help the robotics team. “I design certain aspects of the robot. If I need help, I can ask a sponsor. You can also go to a sponsor’s work site, and they can help us build certain parts we can’t,” Pierce said.

Cedar Falls has another robotics team as well, the FIRST Robotics Challenge Team 525, coached by physics teacher Kenton Swartley.

That team will have a scrimmage on Feb. 14 at the Nielson Field House (the old NU gym), accompanied by eight other Iowa teams, before heading to Duluth on Feb. 25-28 to qualify for the international tournament. “The FIRST organization switched up the game a lot this season. It changed the team perimeters and made many of the earlier rules obsolete. We are attacking it from a different level by building two fully functioning robots. The new rules allow for a lot more creativity; the robot can be as big as you want. We are building elevator robots,” junior Aditi Rao said.

Pierce, who also participates in FIRST, details the competition: “For the competition this year, you are picking up and stacking crates with robots; there is no defense,” Pierce said.

The team has a six-week build session where the students put in three to four hours a day building the robot. In addition to building, the robotics team works on public relations and fundraising. Pierce works on the communications committee, writing the FIRST newsletter and including current robotics events. FIRST is currently selling LED lightbulbs to raise funds for its trips and parts of the robot.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply