Central High Robotics Team Honored for Educational Outreach Work

Contact: Michael Johnson, RoboLancers Coach, RoboLancers@gmail.com, 267-666-0246.

UPPER DARBY, PA, MARCH 29, 2015 — The Central High School RoboLancers won the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) District Chairman’s Award at a competition at Upper Darby High School over the weekend, the most prestigious award given at that competition. The award identifies the RoboLancers as a “model team” that has worked over the last five years to grow the robotics program within Central High School from 10 student members to over 100 while also inspiring thousands of students of all ages throughout the region to explore STEM fields.

In a school district hard hit by budget cuts that have resulted in sharp reductions in science and engineering classes and programs in recent years, the RoboLancers have worked continuously to foster engineering and science education by mentoring younger teams in the city and hosting events for all levels of the FIRST program, from elementary to high school. They also host the annual Philly Robotics Expo (coming up on April 20 at the Singh Nanotechnology Center at the University of Pennsylvania), where hundreds of schoolchildren take robotics classes taught by the RoboLancers students and have the opportunity to meet and interact with other robotics teams and companies who come to exhibit their robots.

To compete for the Chairman’s Award, teams submit an essay and a short video explaining the impact of their team, then they make a presentation and are interviewed by a panel of judges. This year’s presentation team is comprised of seniors Stanley Umeweni and Maria Shayegan and junior Evan Aretz. You can view their video at: http://youtu.be/MgiFTv7zwWM

The RoboLancers FRC team will compete at one more district-level event on April 3–4 at North Brunswick High School in North Brunswick, NJ, before joining other qualified teams at the Mid-Atlantic Robotics Regional Championship on April 9–11 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

In addition to presenting before a panel of judges in hopes of winning the Chairman’s Award for the whole mid-Atlantic region, the RoboLancers will continue to compete in the robot competition itself. The RoboLancers, like all FRC teams, had just six weeks, starting in January, to design and build their robots to play this year’s game, “Recycle Rush.” Objectives of the game include stacking large plastic totes, placing recycle bins on top of those stacks, and placing pool noodle “litter” in the recycle bins. During the first 15 seconds of each round, robots operate autonomously, following commands that the students have pre-programmed. Then for the remainder of the match, students operate the robots in real time via remote control.

All FIRST tournaments are free and open to the public. For more information on the FRC district tournaments and regional championship, see http://www.midatlanticrobotics.com/event-schedules/.

FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen which seeks to inspire students from K-12th grade to pursue and lead STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Competitions such as FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition), FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), and FLL (FIRST Lego League) blends the engagement of science and technology and the value of teamwork through friendly competitions with other FIRST teams while giving students rewarding experiences that follow them to whatever field they choose to pursue.

The Central High School RoboLancers is a FIRST Robotics Team founded in 1999. Starting with a small classroom of students, the team has now has grown to over 100 members. In addition to competing in multiple levels of competitive robotics events, the RoboLancers have helped mentor many teams across the Philadelphia region, including at Girls High School, Independence Charter School, G.W. Carver High School for Engineering and Science, and Martin Luther King High School, to raise awareness for the need of STEM education and occupations within Philadelphia and around the world. The RoboLancers have won many previous awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis. The RoboLancers are growing, not only in their team but in their impact in the community; this Chairman’s Award is proof.

Special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: The Associated Alumni of Central High School, The Central High School Home and School Association, McKean Defense, Comcast, PTC, P’unk Avenue/Ignite Philly, Bresslergroup, and Johnsonville.

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Justin Glazman, Jonah Getz, and Mechanical Lead Kamal Carter in the pit

[FRC] Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

On March 13 to March 14th, the Robolancers competed at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The unique thing about this year’s game was that the human players could slide silver totes (boxes used in the game) through a chute for the robots to grab. Stacking these silver totes into a specific white zone gave teams point. There is also a green recycling trash can that could be placed on top for even more bonus points. Robots can obtain totes and recycling trash cans through the huge assortment of silver totes near the center of the field.

Furthermore, the gold totes, if stacked in the center by both sides, would grant “coopertition” (cooperation + competition) points to both sides. The most unique thing, though, was the fact that human players could toss “litter” (pool noodles) over the wall of the field, as if they were gold Olympic medalist javelin throwers, into the opposing side for extra points.

Overall, the robot designs at the event were impressive. For example, Techfire, team 225, had a robot that allowed it to create two sets of two-stack tall totes (the boxes) at once. MOE, team 365, had a robot that resembled a forklift truck. Our team, team 321, had a series of hooks on a belt that rotated. This allowed our robot to snag on several totes at once.

However, we did encounter several issues, including parts falling off during matches. Despite all of these setbacks, we still ended up becoming the 8th seeding captain for the event, which meant we would be going to the semi-finals. We were paired with team 484, Roboforce, and team 3637, The Daleks. With their help, we landed in 2nd place by the end of the quarters-finals matches. By the time we reached the end of the semi-finals, we ended up in 4th place, which was a great accomplishment for the entire team.

Additionally, we also won a creativity award for our hook design, and for our extensive use of sensors. As one Robolancer member generously commented, we had a “bucket of sensors”.

Saturday at Springside Chestnut Hill

Today, Saturday January 17, the Robolancers were given the wonderful opportunity to work with Springside Chestnut Hill robotics team, 1218 Vulcan Robotics. Today we just wanted to test out our mecanum drive, something the Robolancers have not used since 2010, out on regulation FIRST carpet. Mecanums have a bad reputation, for not being the greatest if you do not practice often. We came to Springside just to test out our drive, and 1218 helped us out the entire time. First, they gave us the opportunity to explore their amazing machine shop. We were instantly amazed; they had a lathe and even a CNC mill and they told us that we were allowed to use it whenever we needed to. Next they showed us their swerve drive that a few of their kids worked on for their senior design project, and it was truly inspirational knowing that students designed and built a fully operational swerve.

Talking about the swerve, we were able to gain insight on mechanical design, FRC sensors, and even programming expertise. Everyone on their team was extremely welcoming, sincere, and graciously shared advice for this current build season. This was probably one of our best days in the build season because we got to see our drive work and had the opportunity to work with one of the best robotics team in MAR. Thank you Springside Chestnut Hill for allowing use to work with you guys!

(1218 Beautiful swerve drive we got to see)
(1218 Beautiful swerve drive we got to see)

Chestnut Hill FRC Regional

Hi all, it has been a while since my last blog post.

The RoboLancers recently participated in the Springside Chestnut Hill FRC District competition on the 14th and 15th of March. I have previously been a part of the drive team for off-season events – Ramp Riot and Duel on the Delaware, however it was my first time being part of the drive team for an actual qualifying competition. My position was the coach of the drive team. This experience was exciting and a little stressful. Being able to strategize with other teams and being up front and watching the robots competing on the field was amazing. After this competition, I am very looking forward to the Lenape-Seneca regional this week. Hopefully the team will be able to yield better results this competition.

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Chestnut Hill District Competition

On March 14th and 15th the RoboLancers attended the FRC Chestnut Hill District Competition. In the previous year I was able to attend this competition, however, this year was my first time as a member of the pit crew. I had the opportunity to work on the mechanical aspects of the robot, repair various complications that had occurred with the robot, and prepared the robot to compete in the field.

Last year I was able to see the competition from a different perspective. I witnessed the different teams and robots compete out on the field and the illuminating spirt that was rendered through the teams. This year I was allowed to participate in the action that occurs behind the scenes. Pit crew was chaotic, everyone scampered to ready the robot for the matches. The mood was high paced and stressful. When in the pit, one is able to ultimately understand that the robot is never thoroughly complete.

Although our robot did not function to its full potential. I have to admit that being a part of the pit crew was one of the most extraordinary experiences I was able to be a part of. I am optimistic about the improvements that our team has decided to make on the robot and am excited and looking forward to attending next week’s Lenape-Seneca Regional Competition.

– Melissa