FTC Robotics Teams qualify for NYC Championships

Ava Westreich and Mira Bansal

First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams 9681, 7890, and 16568 all competed and won awards in the FTC Robotics virtual competition qualifier round last Sunday, and teams 9681 and 16568 qualified for the NYC Championships. Team 9681 earned second place for the Think Award, third place for the Motivate Award, and fifth overall in the competition. Team 16568 earned second place for the Inspire Award and first place for the Motivate Award.

At the competition, the teams virtually presented the robots that they coded, designed, and assembled to perform specific tasks. This year’s challenge was to create a robot that picked up rings that were laid out on a playing field, FTC Robotics faculty advisor Lester Lee said.

During the competition, one of Team 9681’s judges was former computer science teacher Danah Screen, Abigail Morse (12) said. This was a highlight and surprise for Morse.

To prepare for the competition, members of the team brainstormed the design and controls of the robot, Morse said. “[We had to make] sure that all the mechanisms could run because we were focusing on driving the robot manually with game controllers,” she said. “It helped us score a lot of points.” 

The teams also recorded videos of the robot and sent them to the judges, Avi Rao (10) said. The videos consisted of recorded matches that showed the robot’s execution of an autonomous code, a pre-programmed code that the robot completes on its own for the first 30 seconds, Justin Burrell (11) said. After the robot performed, the drivers moved the robot with a controller to score additional points.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the teams’ season was largely online, so they only had three weeks to build a robot, Rao said. 

The time constraint was especially difficult for the hardware section of the team because they could only prepare in the shop at the school, while other parts of the team, like software, could test the robot with the code anywhere, Zeba Packer (9) said.

Despite these challenges of competing online, Lee is grateful the teams were able to have a competition at all, he said. “It was looking very uncertain at the beginning of the year, and looking back, I’m proud of how much progress the students have made,” he said. 

Though Packer’s team, 7890, did not qualify, they still won the Control Award for second place. Packer and her team are excited about the results of the competition because they were hoping to win the Control Award, she said. “We still have a lot to work on, and that will happen in the next following weeks.”

Rao is happy that two of the three teams qualified, and he is confident that the other team will qualify at their other competitions, he said.“Overall, it’s great that we were able to have two teams qualify in spite of our very limited shop time.”