What Worlds Weans to Me

It’s purposeful don’t worry, alliteration.

It’s been a couple years since I lived in the basement of Central High School. I am Ben Ehrlich, graduated in 2013, and I was president when the RoboLancers won 3 Engineering Inspiration awards in a year and were invited to world champs for the first time in a long time (I was never good at History.)

To say the team changed my life would not give it justice. The role that the RoboLancers, it’s members, it’s leaders (past and present), and the people and events it brought me into, was the single most influential subject in my development in becoming a young adult. Besides it giving me confidence (I was pretty narcissistic, ask anyone) it gave me the opportunity to grow in tech experience, public speaking, and leadership. With these tools, at only 18, compared to my classmates at Drexel University, I was prepared for anything.

My friend Nadia recorded our reactions when the MC read out their punny poem leading to our award and place at Worlds 2 years ago. To say we were livid would be a gross understatement. It changed everything in the minds of people on the team, it was possible. In only 2 years we have now done it again. The students, the young talent that this team has collected over the years, has brought the largest award in FIRST, from regional competition, and the “blue banner” thereof to Central High School.

To me, this means “we made it.” We have gone from a few members doing our best at local competitions, to a World Competing team with 100 members. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend the team meetings leading to our success. I’m even more happy to see that the young men and women to take me and my graduates place on the team have not only done as well as us, but by far surpass us. They say raise your kids to be better than you could ever be. We are the RoboLancers, I’m not just proud to have been involved, I’m proud of what we have achieved without my team presence.

It’s taken a little over a decade but in FIRST, mark my words, the RoboLancers, team 321, have arrived to the dance floor and we’re ready to kill it.

Get Ready for PRX!

Robots are taking over Philadelphia yet again!

Central High School’s RoboLancers will unveil the newest and most exciting advances in the field of robotics at the Philly Robotics Expo hosted by the RoboLancers and the GRASP Lab of the University of Pennsylvania. You don’t have to be a science geek to have a blast playing with real robots and learning from local business people, engineers and students who are transforming science fiction into science reality! Kids, parents and professionals can all be a part of this exciting look into Philadelphia robotics. Children of all ages are invited to attend our hands-on workshops on topics ranging from autonomous programming to real robot driving lessons. Last year, organizations such as Boeing, LEGO Education, Society of Women Engineers, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and high schools from the region captivated Philadelphia with their achievements in cutting edge technology. The event will be a part of Philly Tech Week which runs from April 17th to April 25th.

This year’s PRX will run from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.  Highlights will include FIRST robotics demonstrations from Jr. FLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC teams; tours of the GRASP Labs including Flying Robots, Humanoids, and “Upennalizers” Soccer Robots; presentations by professors and graduate students; and activities and demos from exhibitors. The event will be held at four locations on Penn’s Campus: Singh Nanotechnology Center, Skirkanich, Levine, and SEAS Hall.

Date: Monday, April 20, 2015

Time: 8:00 am  – 3:00 pm

Location: Singh Nanotechnology Center, 3205 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Web: http://phillyroboticsexpo.com

Contact: roboticsexpo@gmail.com


NBC 10

“What the Tech?”:  http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video/#!/news/tech/What-the-Tech—Philly-Robotics-Expo/148589895

“Philly Gears Up for a Tech Takeover”:  http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics/Philly-Gears-Up-For-a-Tech-Takeover-148266155.html


Jeff Gelles, Inquirer Staff Writer, “Shooting Hoops at the Bot Expo”: http://articles.philly.com/2012-04-26/business/31410922_1_homemade-robots-robocup-human-shaped

Short video:  http://www.philly.com/philly/video/BC1581321397001.html

Jeff Gelles, Inquirer Staff Writer, Philly Robotics Expo seeks to inspire a new generation of robot-builders:  http://articles.philly.com/2013-04-24/business/38765935_1_first-robotics-competition-central-high-school-springside-chestnut-hill-academy

Technically Philly

Brian James Kirk, “Philly Robotics Expo hosts more than 700 students, teachers at second annual Tech Week event”:  http://technicallyphilly.com/2012/04/24/philly-robotics-expo-hosts-more-than-700-students-teachers-at-second-annual-tech-week-event

WHYY / Newsworks

Robot Expo Aims to Prove Philly More than Sports, Cheesesteaks: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/arts-and-culture-everything/item/37414-robot-expo-aims-to-prove-philly-more-than-cheesesteaks-sports

Zack Seward, At Philly Robotics Expo, students inspire students to think STEM [photos]:  http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/onward/53867-at-philly-robotics-expo-students-inspire-students-to-think-stem-photos


“At Philly Robotics Expo, students inspire students to think STEM”:  http://thenotebook.org/blog/135912/philly-robotics-expo-students-inspire-students-think-stem


First Lego League Volunteering

On the Saturday of January 31, the FLL Qualifier was hosted in the gymnasium of Central High School. The event was rescheduled from the week before because of the previously predicted snow.

Around 8’o clock, the volunteers had begun to arrive, including many familiar faces among the crowd. The alumni of the team had returned to lend their helping hands. Mr. Ueda was back to coordinate the event. Members of both FTC teams Crimson #6676 and Gold #5320 also volunteered in many positions throughout the event.

As a robot game queuer, the games didn’t start until the afternoon, so I had spent my time helping out with miscellaneous tasks that needed to be done. Eventually, I settled myself down with telling the teams to get ready for their judging session, seeing that it fits with my original job. Thus with every 15 minute, 6 teams must be informed of their judging and be brought up to the correct room.

The game started after the lunch break, with everyone trying to finish up their pizza slices and hoagies. The rounds of game were back to back, and unforeseen delays messed up our schedule again and again. Although one might call it stressful, it was worth it for the successful completion of the event as a whole.

We, the volunteers, lined up and await for the high-fives of the awarded teams. There were cheers and excitements with each announcement of individual winning teams, accompanied by the pun-filled comments from the judges. And there we ended this day of a successfully carried out event.

FIRST LEGO League at Central High School

On January the thirty-first, Central High School hosted the ASPIRA FLL Qualifier. The volunteers and judges donned their uniforms and T-shirts, the concession stand was set up and the judging tables opened their doors. By 7:30 AM, the 15 participating teams had arrived and were situated in their pits, three had not attended. The procession began with “The Star-Spangled Banner” (slightly awkward because the gym lacked a flag). At about 8:30 AM, our master of ceremonies, Evan Aretz, cued the start of the presentation judging by playing the first casual song through the speakers. From this time to 12:45 PM, FLL teams prepared to and presented their opinions on how students should be taught in the 21st century to our judges. At 12:45 PM, the heart and soul of robotics arrived: pizza, approximately 50 boxes of it. At 1:30 PM, matched commenced, and Evan Aretz traded in his position as DJ to provide commentary for the matches. The vacant position was left to the scorekeepers. This commenced two hours of smooth FLL competing. While the judges reviewed the results of the competition, the audience and we, the volunteers, begin a dance party, taking music suggestions from the audience, eating leftover pizza, and enjoying ourselves. At about 4:30 PM, the event coordinator, Mr. Daniel Ueda, returned to announce the winners of the ASPIRA FLL Qualifier. After the announcements, the FLL teams left the tournament with “We are the Champions” by Queen playing behind them.

Congratulations to the participants and winners of today’s qualifying tournament. Good luck to those who are continuing on to the championships. Good job to all the volunteers; we had a few errors, but we solved them effectively and efficiently. To the organizers and sponsors of this event: Thank you for your support of this event. It was a great experience and very enjoyable.

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)

New Members

On September 18 the RoboLancers welcomed the new members of the team at our meeting. Before the meeting, some of our returning team members went around the school and promoted Robotics in hopes we would be able to recruit new members. They went into various classrooms and explained our group, the RoboLancers, to everyone.

The meeting was held in Central’s auditorium. Before the end of school, it was only filled with the returning members of the team, fixing the stage and getting ready for the presentation. But it soon changed as people quickly walked into the room, hoping that they would be able to sign up. There was excitement and eagerness on all of their faces.

The presentation was led by our coach, Mr. Johnson, and other members of the team. They went over what the RoboLancers were all about. They explained what the game for FTC was, the responsibilities of being on the team, and explained what Mechanical, Electrical, Programming, and Marketing were.

After the meeting everyone broke up into smaller groups and showed them where the RoboLancers worked. To break the ice, the groups played various games. When the new members were asked what subgroup they wanted to join, most had an idea of what they wanted to do. They then went into detail about the game, and brainstormed ideas for what the robot would be like.

The promotion for Robotics was a success for there were 112 new members who showed up at the meeting. There are 52 returning members with one or two returning as well. This brings the team to an all-time high of 164. Everyone has high hopes that the game for FTC will be successful.

Philadelphia Science Festival

Arriving at the Robolancers booth at 7:30, I could feel the weather would shape out to be a great day for us. Hank arrived with the robots and booth supplies, and we started to unload everything from the car that was packed ever so meticulously in order to fit everything we needed. After the booth was all set up and more Robolancers started to show up we did some joy-riding with the FRC robot. This carried on till sectors started to arrive, then I was off to the FTC field.

The field was hectic at first, from connection issues to missing supplies to broken robots and impatient lines, Andy, Jonah and I had a lot in our hands. But after sorting everything out the day went smoothly… for a while at least. We were forced to settle with only one robot running to demo at a time to my much pleasure, Crimson was among them. Its late  but Crimson worked and unlike gold, we found out that it was quiet childproof.

It was a pleasure explaining the FIRST program and FTC to the interested parents as the kids drove around the field. In the end the line moved smoothly, both Crimson and Gold were being switched in and out of operation and everyone was happy. It’s amazing to see just how smart some of the kids were and interested in robotics.Overall, it was a great day, and hopefully we sparked an interest for some of the kids who visited us.