2014-2015

Worlds Competition at St. Louis, Missouri( May 2, 2015)

On the evening of April 21st, the RoboLancers set out on a 15 hour bus ride to St. Louis, Missouri. As the winner of the Chairman’s Award (an award given to the team that “embodies the the purpose and goals of FIRST”) in both the city and regional competition, the RoboLancers were eligible to go to the Worlds competition.

Of course, the fee for this trip was not cheap. However, our generous sponsors, including the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, as well as the alumni of Central High School and other generous donators, have all pitched in enough money in order to pay for all the expenses.

We stayed in St. Louis, Missouri for a total of 5 days. Conveniently, we stayed at the Westin Hotel, which was only a short walk’s distance away from the competition arenas. Upon arrival at the arena (which was actually a football field), most of the seats were filled, with the exception of the seats on the upper-level. This was quite surprising, considering that only the FRC (FIRST Robotics Challenge) teams were in the stands.

Aside from the FRC teams, there were also many FLL (FIRST Lego League) teams there as well, although it was on a separate floor. The FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) teams were kept in a completely different building due to the lack of space.

Green recycling containers in the center can be pulled over to your team’s side both during the autonomous and tele-operated phase. (Photo credits to Marie Planchard from SolidWorks

During the FRC competition, our robot underwent a significant change.   Most robots were able to grab the recycling containers in the center of       the field, which netted their team a huge bonus if they managed to place   it on top of a stack of totes (gray rectangular boxes). Without these two     recycling containers, it became much harder to outscore your opponent   unless they made a mistake or accidentally knocked over their stack.

As a result, in order to keep up with the other teams, we had to add our
own recycling can-grabbers. This was done during the competition, and it essentially is two metal rods that open up into a T shape in order to grab the backs of the recycling containers.

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Although we made significant improvements to our robot, we did not manage to win in our division (Newton division).

Of course, even without the robots, there were a lot of other things to do. For example, there was the Innovation Faire, located in the Renaissance St Louis Grand Hotel. There were a lot of companies, such as NVIDIA, Boeing, PTC, and LEGO. Many colleges seeking aspiring children and teenagers were there as well, including Yale University, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Kettering University.


Aside from that, I also managed to take a selfie with Woodie Flowers. No, not the wooden cardboard cutout version, but the actual person. Huge shout-out to Ariana Versace for managing to find Woodie Flowers amidst thousands of people, and of course, to Woodie Flowers for agreeing to take a picture with us.

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The trip to St. Louis, Missouri, was an amazing experience, and one that I hope to have again. Of course, even though we didn’t win, it was an eye-opening experience. This was our second time going to the Worlds competition. But you know what they say, third times the charm.

Would you like to see more pictures? If so, please click here.

St. Louis and Worlds (May 1, 2015)

The World Robotics Championship is where the best robotics teams from around the world compete against each other on the grandest stage of all.

The journey to St. Louis was tiring but exciting at the same time. To be honest, I had underestimated the bus ride. I estimated it would take from 13 to 18 hours of travelling but I didn’t think much of it. Luckily, I survived, but I came out of the bus with a sore and aching body.

I was relieved once we arrived at St. Louis. We finally had the chance to escape the cramped spaces of the bus and enjoy some breakfast. Before we went to our hotel we stopped by the City Museum. The place was bursting with creativity and excitement.  There were slides in every corner (one of them was 10 stories high), staircases to climb, smalls spaces to crawl through, and objects to hang from. The place was packed with kids of all ages. Adults were having fun too. The RoboLancers weren’t the only robotics team in the building. I saw plenty of other teams having fun before the start of the competition.

The next day was the start of the qualification matches. I’ve been to many robotics competitions in Philadelphia but they were nothing compared to the World Championships. Everything was bigger, better, and more exciting. Teams from all over the world such as Australia, Mexico, and Israel arrived to compete. The stands were filled with people rooting for their teams. The team spirit I witnessed during Worlds was unbelievable. People were chanting, yelling, and dancing around the place.

While we were at the Edward Jones Dome/America’s Center, I got to roam around for a bit with my friend. While we were travelling to the Pit area I saw a bunch of people crowding around someone. Curious, we went over to see who they were talking to.

It was Woodie Flowers.

The first time I came close to a famous person was last year during the summer. In my mind I knew that this was a rare opportunity and that I shouldn’t let this chance pass me by. People were getting his autograph and taking selfies with him. My friend was anxious to go to the pits since we were on a tight schedule but I absolutely refused to leave until I got a signature from Woodie Flowers.

And I did.

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I met Woodie Flowers and got his autograph. This was something I never thought would happen in my life. I went on to brag about this to my other team members but I stopped when two of my friends met him the next day and took a selfie with him.

We later then went to the pits where we went crazy hunting for team pins, wristbands, and other cool toys. We were at Worlds and we wanted to experience everything as much as we could.

Later in the day the opening ceremony began. It was a paper airplane extravaganza. That’s the best way I can describe the opening ceremony and the rest of the competition. Never in my life have I seen so many paper airplanes being thrown in the air. They were quite impressive.

The competition continued for the next few days. Finals were around the corner and we competed with all we had. We ranked in 54th place in the end. Unfortunately, we didn’t get picked during Alliance Selection so we couldn’t compete during the Einstein Playoffs. However, we didn’t let that dampen our mood. The ending ceremony arrived with a concert and everyone enjoyed themselves during our last day in St. Louis.

Going to the World Championship was an experience I’ll never forget. I got the chance to meet people from all over the world, go to the Gateway Arch, meet Woodie Flowers, and collect team pins in the pits like a madwoman. I want to thank all of our sponsors for supporting the RoboLancers and helping us with our trip to St. Louis. This would never have happened without your support.

We went to the World Championship twice already.

I’m hoping for round 3.

What Worlds Weans to Me (April 27, 2015)

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.

Road to St. Louis (April 14, 2015)

The Central High School RoboLancers — the student-run robotics program of Central High School in Philadelphia — is urgently seeking your financial support to attend the Robotics World Championship in St. Louis from April 22 to April 25. Here is a link to our gofundme campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/robolancers2015

The RoboLancers champion science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our public schools and have become a shining example of what students in a challenging urban setting can do when given the opportunity. Since its founding in 1999, the RoboLancers have grown from five students to a multi-faceted program of more than 112 students. It is now the largest extracurricular activity at Central High School, one of Philadelphia’s most academically rigorous public magnet schools.

This year, the RoboLancers were one of two teams selected from the 122 teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region to win the Chairman’s Award, the FIRST robotics organization’s highest honor. This award is given to the team that most exemplifies the spirit of the organization and in recognition of its work promoting science and technical education among high schoolers. In addition to the Chairman’s Award, the team has won four Engineering Inspiration Awards over the past three years, which further recognizes our outreach and educational activities.

The RoboLancers’ membership is drawn from Central High School’s extremely diverse population. Of the more than 2,200 students who attend the school, 30 percent are African-American, 33 percent are Asian, 9 percent are Latino, and nearly 60 percent come from families that are classified as “economically disadvantaged.” The RoboLancers mainly compete against suburban and private schools with significantly more resources, yet the team thrives despite significant financial adversity. Our outstanding performance has made us eligible for the FIRST Robotics World Championship, one of the most challenging high school robotics competitions in the nation.

Teams around the world had six weeks to design and build a 120 pound robot from scratch that competes with other team’s robots by performing a variety of tasks. The design, construction, programming and operation of the robot provide students with critical hands-on experiences they can’t get in the classroom. The opportunities afforded by the robotics competition spark student interest in engineering and help prepare them for college and careers in STEM fields.

Yet the RoboLancers are much more than a competitive robotics team. At a time when Philadelphia public schools have suffered devastating budget cuts involving the layoffs of thousands of teachers, the shuttering of dozens of schools, and drastic program and classroom cuts, including the defunding of robotics programs throughout the city, the RoboLancers have stepped up and become the lynchpin of STEM education in Philadelphia. The team mentors other robotics programs across the city, providing technical support, physical space, and tools for other teams.

The RoboLancers also host several critical robotics events, including workshops and competitions for elementary, middle, and high school students from around the city. The RoboLancers also partner with the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab to host the Philadelphia Robotics Expo, an all-day event to promote engineering and science education to more than 400 children through student-run workshops, demonstrations and programs. Supporting the RoboLancers does not just benefit students at Central High School, but thousands of students across the city who participate in the RoboLancers’ outreach program.

Our annual budget of more than $30,000 has been raised exclusively through an aggressive student-run sponsorship campaign and the support of the Associated Alumni of Central High School and the Central High School Home and School Association. Yet the RoboLancers’ selection for the World Robotics Championship means the team must raise an additional $25,000-$35,000 to pay for event registration, hotel accommodations, meals, and transportation of students and equipment to and from St. Louis. And we must raise this money in less than two weeks.

Your assistance is urgently needed to ensure that this extraordinary team of high schoolers will have the chance to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championship from April 22 to April 25. Thank you in advance for your support of STEM education in Philadelphia.

Central High Robotics Team Honored for Educational Outreach Work (March 30, 2015)

Contact: Michael Johnson, RoboLancers Coach, RoboLancers@gmail.com267-666-0246.

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 (March 17, 2015)

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”.

[Gold] Pennsylvania FTC State Competition (March 3, 2015)

Last Saturday, February 28th, was a very eventful day. I started my day off waking up at the prime time of 4 am. The low temperatures were at our disadvantage, none the less we over came this feat with the glorious picture of going to the state competition. The commute to the school was pretty hectic. The teams reside in different parts of the city, making it difficult for us to get to school together and at the same time. As 5:30 am was arriving soon, and the bus was still not in sight. At one point, I ended up running down the street in front of the school with Sabrina. I was scolded by multiple people about it being to cold outside. Shortly after, the bus arrives and we load up. The ride there was relatively relaxing and pleasant. Some were still half asleep, others making conversation with one another, and those, like me, who looked at the scenery the majority of the ride.

We arrive at the venue of the competition sooner than I would have expected. We exit the bus and were immediately hit with a blast of the crisp and cold air. After unloading our things, we enter the building. I took in the amazing and exhilarating view of what States really was. So many teams had already arrived along with their robots; Their robots were jaw dropping. Some might think that the sight of impressive robots at a competition that you are apart of may not be the most pleasant things to see. However, the sight rather intrigued me and gave me a sense of competitiveness, motivation you could say. Once we spotted our tables, Gold immediately got to work. Inspections had to be done by 10:15 am and our presentation time was 8:40. Thankfully, we were rather prepared and were able to successfully compete in a majority of our matches. Though some parts of the robot were not necessarily finished in the beginning, we eventually did. Vincent and Jiong Heng were even able to score 8 points into the rolling goals. One problem over another, I would say we did a rather good job at solving them.

As 10:15 rolled around and the opening ceremony took place, the real hype had just begun. Teams running back and forth to fix parts on the robot, drivers going about getting to their matches, Saturday was fueled by nothing but energy. As a result of the many teams, 36 teams from around the tri-state area, matches had to be run a lot quicker, meaning there was less time for mistakes to be fixed. In between the matches, I had time to explore and mingle with potential alliance partners. Creating strong relations are important and the people there were very pleasant to be around. Not to mention running around in Rock’em Sock’em costumes was also fun to do.

Once the preliminary matches finished, the top 4 teams picked their alliance partners. At one point, Gold’s hopes sky rocketed when the digits “53” were spoken out from the mouth of Tom, of course the ending digits were not in our favor. The team “5319” was chosen instead, which was a bit upsetting to us. However, we won’t continue to be upset about it for what we did accomplish that day was very impressive to me.

Overall, States was a great experience. This was my first year on the team and also my first big robotics competition I went to. From being nervous around the judges, to running around finding individuals, to group dances, it really was amazing. Despite not qualifying for the Super Regionals, I think we have overcome a large hurdle throughout the year. Keep up the good work Gold!

FTC States 2015 (March 2, 2015)

On February 28th members from Crimson and from Gold woke up early to travel to Millersville University to compete in this year’s FTC State Competition.

Last year I had attended the State Competition and so returning to Millersville brought back some nostalgia. There were quite a few things that were similar to last year’s competition. Teams were arriving into the building with their robots and were hurrying to get them inspected by 10:15 AM. After all, teams that did not complete inspection wouldn’t be allowed to compete. Some members from Crimson and Gold were getting ready for presentations. They had been practicing the night before and during the bus ride. They wanted to make sure that they had their facts right and that everything was perfect.

Unlike last year, I wasn’t very involved in the competition. I had been busy with Marketing this year and so I wasn’t able to spend time with Crimson’s robot. Since I wasn’t as involved with the robot there wasn’t much pressure on me. I was able to relax a bit and watch the competition. But that did not mean I was idle the entire day. I had to sport one of our Rock’em Sock’em costumes. Gold member Joan Huang wore the other costume. The last time I wore the costume was when the RoboLancers went to the Philly Science Festival in 2014. I was reminded of how hot being in it was and how tiring it could be to dance for a long period of time. But I was also reminded of how fun it was to interact with other mascots and see people’s reactions to our Rock’em Sock’em robots.

Unfortunately at the end of the competition none of our teams were chosen as alliance partners. We weren’t able to qualify for Super Regionals. However, that did not entirely ruin our mood. Even though it we were upset, we still left the building with our heads held up high. Everyone was proud at what they had accomplished that day.

The bus ride back to Central High School was filled with laughter, music, and singing. A variety of tunes ranging from Disney songs to songs from famous pop singers were belted out. The school song was also included in our sing-along.

I would like to congratulate both Crimson and Gold for making it to States and all the hard work they have done. The RoboLancers will keep on improving every year and one day we will make it to the very end

Central High Robotics Teams Head to State and Regional Competitions (Febuary 20, 2015)

Contact: Michael Johnson, RoboLancers Coach, RoboLancers@gmail.com267-666-0246.

PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 23, 2015 — Central High School’s two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams will join hundreds of students from across Pennsylvania, ranging from 7th–12th grade, at Millersville University on February 28th for the 2015 FTC Pennsylvania State Championship Tournament. In this year’s exciting game, “Cascade Effect,” 36 teams will face off against each other in an alliance format. Winners of the FTC Pennsylvania Championship will advance to the Eastern Super-Regional — and finally to the World Championship. Off the field, teams will also compete for the Inspire Award and other judged awards.

Five Philadelphia teams that competed at the Philadelphia League Championship at Central High School on February 7th qualified to go on to this state championship. These are the Central High School RoboLancers Gold and Crimson teams, the Northeast High School N.E.R.D.S, the Edison High School Robo Owls, and the Freire Charter School RoboDragons.

For months, the robotics teams have been hard at work designing, building, and programming their robots from scratch. The robots are remotely operated and are constructed by students using robotics system kits with basic tools and equipment utilizing professional mechanical techniques and creativity. “Cascade Effect” involves 160 white plastic balls with robots seeking to score points by placing the balls into rolling goals.

The Central High School RoboLancers also compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)—the highest level of competition offered by FIRST. The RoboLancers FRC team is scheduled to compete at three district-level events:

  • March 13–14 at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 500 W Willow Grove Ave, Philadelphia
  • March 28–29 at Upper Darby High School, 8201 Lansdowne Avenue, Upper Darby, PA, and
  • April 3–4 at North Brunswick High School, 98 Raider Rd, North Brunswick Township, NJ

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 FTC state championship see http://www.ftcpenn.org/. For more information on the FRC district tournaments, 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 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 awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.

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.POSTED ONEDIT”[CRIMSON] FTC PHILADELPHIA LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP”

[Crimson] FTC Philadelphia League Championship

Today, I watched and also participated in the Philly FTC Championship, where 17 teams came to Central High to compete for the chance to advance to the States Competition. I never was that into robotics and I only thought of it as a hobby. However, I was drawn back in when I saw this year’s game, which was extremely interesting. Additionally, I was also placed as a temporary coach  for this competition, so that was an interesting experience as well.

Previously, I always had an foolish impression of myself being a tyrannical leader but I learned that being a learned being a leader wasn’t about giving orders and such. Being leader meant that you had the listen,understand, and learn. Between me giving terrible advice to giving amazing pep talks that brought everyone’s morale up, I picked up on my team members’ patterns and strengths. With that information a leader has to divide the problem into jobs for different people based on their capabilities. For example, Diego, not one for the limelight but a hard worker, Michael, perky and full energy, or Viwing, careful and precise are split based on their abilities. Diego mans the pit, which is where we maintenance the robot in between matches, Michael works as a spirit coordinator, and Viwing controls the manipulators on our robot.

As temporary coach you have to be patient and able which I’m neither most of the time. Being the temporary coach was unpredictably stressful because not only does the bestowed responsibility of the coach lie on your shoulders the team’s fate does to. In the first few rounds we hadn’t perform too well and dropped to 15th place. Our servo fell off, there were problems with our battery, and there were other technical difficulties. Each of those mistakes lead to a crushing defeat every time.

In the last match I told my teammates, “Guys I know I’ve said this many times and it sounds really cheesy but I want to tell that you that you guy did me some proud no matter defeat or victory. This is our last match and our last chance chance to them what we’re made of. I want you to give them your all this match.” In the last match we were paired with 5505 Frankford team and through our teamwork we scored 200 to 100 against our opponents. As result they selected us in an alliance during the semifinal matches, followed by so much cheering that our voices went hoarse. In the end, we advanced on to states, so we still have a long way to go!

Get Ready for PRX! (Febuary 5, 2015)

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


Media

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

Philly.com

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

thenotebook.org

“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 (Febuary 3, 2015)

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.

FLL Fun (Febuary 3, 2015)

What is more fun than working with robots?

Working with kids and the robots, of course. My job was to make the sure the rules were being followed, not to make the kids cry.  The scariest thing that happened to me in the morning when I overslept the clock, and came out with my ID, and toothbrush in my mouth. As I got off of the Broad Street Line, I met up with XYZ, former member of RoboLancer, as I dashed down the hill to get to the Event.

As I walked into the GYM, I was automatically reprimanded by Sabrina for being late, and not being aware of the rules. As I grabbed my referee shirt, I listened to the head referee, Jim, explain the rules to the referee. As I was half listening, I quickly analyzed the  arena. I noticed automatically, the arena there was more fun, and interesting object. As my job did not start until at 1:30, I  ran around as an errand boy, and casually officiate some of the practice games. As an errand boy, I learned each teams core value, and hopes were often were very different because one might to be score as much as possible, while the next team over might not want to score as much, but to act as a strong building block for the future to come and overlay on.

As the clock neared 1, I was almost constantly sent about to find this team, or relying messages as to what, and where something is happening. To make it even more comical, I even called somebody to inform them of the situation instead of walking up the stairs. When the clock dawned 1, I knew it was either make or break time because if I was not ready before the practice matches, I knew I sure won’t be ready right now. The first match was a mix of fun and nerves for not only the kids, but me also because I knew if I screwed up a game in this line up, it might mean whether they will be able to go to States or not, and I do not want to be the cause why they could not go to States.  However as the game progressed, I noticed either A) the teams wasn’t there or B) the referee watching over the game was somewhere else. As it was my duty to monitor the games, I picked up many games here and there, but lost some of the games here and there also. As the day dragged on, I began to feel increasingly tired, but I knew it was worth it, and the kids will be appreciative in the future.

FIRST LEGO League at Central High School (January 31, 2015)

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.

FTC Philadelphia Championship (January 30, 2015)

Hundreds of students across Philadelphia and the region, ranging from 4th–12th grade, will converge on Central High School Feb. 7 for the city-wide robotics championship match. The teams will compete in the 2015 FIRST Tech Challenge, “Cascade Effect.” In this exciting game, 15 teams will face off against each other in an alliance format. Winners of the FTC Philadelphia Championship will advance to the State Championship — and finally to the World Championship. Other awards include the PTC Design Award, the Winning Alliance Award, and the Finalist Alliance Award.

For weeks prior to the championship, robotics teams have been hard at work designing, building, and programming their robots from scratch. The game, “Cascade Effect,” is quite challenging, requiring teams to strategize in order to score the most amount of points. Teams have spent hours after school strategizing and creating a robot fit to compete. Central High School’s RoboLancers  hosted last year’s FTC Philadelphia Championship with hundreds of people in attendance to support their favorite robotics teams. Crowds are expected to be even larger this year.

The robots are remotely operated and are constructed by students using robotics system kits with basic tools and equipment utilizing professional mechanical techniques and creativity. “Cascade Effect” involves 160 white plastic balls with robots seeking to score points by placing the balls into rolling goals. The team with the most amount of points advances to the next round.

Teams from the following schools are scheduled to compete: Central High School, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, G.W. Carver High School, Freire Charter School, Frankford High School, Edison High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Northeast High School, Murrell Dobbins/Allegheny West Foundation, Academy at Palumbo, and Olney Charter High School

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 originally starting with a small classroom of students and now has grown to over 100 active members. The RoboLancers have participated in robotics events at multiple levels and have helped mentor many teams across the Philadelphia region, such as Girls High School, Independence Charter School, 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 awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and have traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.


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

[Crimson] Second FTC Meet at Temple (January 19, 2015)

On January 14th, we had our second competition at Temple today. It was, like the last, extremely nerve-wracking. However, unlike the last, we modified the manipulator arm so that it can actually cohesively work with the code. We attached strings on the sides of the arm so it would not drag on the floor. Not only that, our tele-op code also works! In addition, a big lesson learned from last competition was that our batteries kept dying. This time, we walked into Temple without worrying about any battery problems.

When we stepped into the field, there was an obvious improvement on the robot from the other teams. They scored better than last time and seemed to have planned things out more meticulously. Our strategy was to score points during Autonomous mode by moving down the ramp. We also wanted to move our robot up the ramp now that we are no longer as back-heavy as the last time. Furthermore, we also wanted to bring a rolling up the ramp during the last 30 seconds, since it promised more points.

Although we planned better than last time, we still placed only 8th. I think the factors that contributed to our placing include the penalty from accidentally touching the rolling goal as we maneuvered it, the shocking improvement from the other teams, and the autonomous code that can only score us 30 points. Walking out of Temple, our team came up with a lot of ideas for the robot. This include feeders with two rows instead of one, better motors that were faster in speed, a pulley based robot instead of a lever based robot, and so on.  We also that believe if we make a code that can knock off the kickstand, we can do much better next time. With all these things we can improve on in mind, we went home and sketched up ideas inspired from the competition.POSTED ONEDIT”SATURDAY AT SPRINGSIDE CHESTNUT HILL”

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)

FTC Philadelphia Championship (January 16, 2015)

On February 7th, Central High School will be hosting the FTC Philadelphia Championship. The event will be running from 7 AM to 6 PM.  Robotics teams from around the city will be competing for numerous awards and hope to advance to States. Last year Central had hosted the FTC Philadelphia Championship and many people had attended to watch the competition.

This year we are hoping for more people to come and support the teams. We hope that you can come attend this exciting event.

Go Crimson #6676 and Gold #5320!

[Crimson] [Mech/Prgm] FTC Meet at Temple (Viwing’s PoV) (December 12, 2014)

We had our First Tech Competition today and it was extremely nerve-wracking. Firstly, the day before competition, we noticed that the design of the robot did not match up with the programming. The reason being is because when the robot moves during the tele-op phase, the manipulator drags on the floor and impedes the robot from accurately moving. Another reason is because the manipulator moves backwards a little too much and the heaviness of the robot’s back causes it to fall backwards.

In conclusion, our team as a whole decided to take off the manipulator for this competition and focus on defending. Another problem arose when the two female driver, Raina and I, were not comfortable with the controllers because during practice, the battery kept dying. However,  we were too excited in the moment and neglected the fact that our robot’s back was too heavy. And so, we tipped over when we moved backwards on the ramp.

Not only that, we were also penalized for touching the rolling goal’s tube during the autonomous phase. Aside from the exciting and nerve-wracking atmosphere of our First Tech competition, a lot of problems were identified.The things we need to work on includes our autonomous code, balancing the weight of the robot, charging the batteries (which is a silly mistake), and utilizing our practice field so the drivers can get comfortable.

There were many regretful things about the competition, knowing that we can definitely do better, but overall, it was a meaningful experience where we could find our mistakes and work on it.POSTED ONEDIT”[CRIMSON] [PRGM] FTC MEET AT TEMPLE (MICHAEL’S POV)”

[Crimson] [Prgm] FTC Meet at Temple (Michael’s PoV) (December 12, 2014)

On December 11th, 2014, the RoboLancers that were going to the competition met in 95, and received their team tshirts. The whole team left, but when they noticed the kid in the wheelchair was missing, everybody stopped and wondered where the kid was at. Furthermore, as the wheelchair kid got on the subway’s elevator, the whole team left without Mr. Johnson and the wheelchair kid as they watched the train doors close before them. That kid was me.

Things got better when we got there, though. As both Crimson and Gold traveled (nervously) to Temple University’s Engineering building to compete in our first FTC meet. The experience of the meet as a whole was amazing. Despite not being fully prepared, that did not discourage nor stop us from doing our best. Our first instinct when we got there was to put the finishing touches on the robot. Crimson went to one table and gold to another and we immediately went to work. Crimson immediately panicked because they have realize that we didn’t have a supply list and the manipulator didn’t turn out as expected.

As the competition went on, Crimson realized that their robot was back heavy, and had to reprogram the robot to make it effectively. As some people worked on the robots, others went to scout the competition From the interviews, we learned a bit about the teams that were there. Based on what we witnessed that day, we saw flaws and strengths within teams. This also made us realize our own flaws and strengths as well.

Our teleoperated code seemed to be defective when testing even though it worked before, when suddenly, Armond, programming Lead, came around and read through and noticed that the controller was defective and our code was actually”A-Ok”. The programmers there, Viwing and I, had a nervous breakdown when we thought our autonomous code did not work, but the answer to the problem was a quick fix. We just needed to activate the code by selecting it in the NXT Brick.

As we went into the matches, our batteries were always scarce and hardly available due to the high demand from Gold needing the batteries for their match when we were practicing it. In the end since there was only one battery, but they relied on us and we pulled through that match with a close win.

Thanks Central Home and School Association! (December 1, 2014)

Thanks to a grant from the Central Home and School Association, our new vertical bandsaw is on its way! Watch for real pictures once our saw arrives and takes its place in the Spain Robotics Lab.

Thanks Home and School!

Drive It! [Marketing] (November 25, 2014)

This is my first year being a part of the team and I’ve never been to any of the events for Robotics. It was my first time at Drive It! and my first time at any Robotics event so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I got there, our team was carrying in boxes and setting up the field. As a member of Marketing, I didn’t have a clue of what the others were doing. The Marketing team and I set up the food stand along with our sassy security guard.

Once our food stand was completely set up and our fabulous signs were taped up, the first chapter of our business began. Our first customers were our team’s members. All of them bought the same thing and that was the Mountain Dew Throwback. After risking frostbite to look for those Throwback cans that were in such high demand, a few more customers appeared. They were unfamiliar faces which indicated that some of the others teams had arrived. Luckily, they requested donuts and hot chocolate(which we didn’t even have at that moment). Other customers appeared after seeing people eat those delicious donuts that were purchased from our food stand. Our thanks goes to Dunkin Donuts for selling us the donuts. We made a lot of money because of them.

Of course, my attention was not only directed to the food stand but also the teams. Since I didn’t know any faces other than the faces of our team members, I directed most of my attention to our own members. The most notable one was Henry Dang. As I was tending to customers’ needs, I watched as he went from table to table. During that time, I was a bit confused and I was wondering why he was at another team’s table. I started to notice that other teams’ members were at our team’s table. That’s when I realized that the teams were helping each other’s robot. They were helping each other so that the team’s could drive their robots hence, ‘Drive It!” At that moment, I felt like I had just discovered the meaning of life. After a long day of rummaging through trash bins for soda cans that were buried under a ton of ice, my day had finally come to an end. On the bus, I wondered if that whole day was a complete waste of time. I opened my bag and picked up the completely forgotten, complimentary Twix bar I got for running the stand and concluded that Drive It! was totally worth it.

Book and Canned Goods Drive (October 7, 2014)

The RoboLancers are currently holding a canned goods and book drive. Located in various locations of Central High School there will be bins and boxes. The bins will be used for the canned goods while the boxes are for books. However, textbooks or damaged books cannot be donated.

The boxes and bins are not plain and dull. The Marketing team has been working hard in decorating them with various designs and by putting up posters around the school. As part of Marketing I had fun in drawing and decorating the boxes. I’m hoping that people will be donating.

We are hoping that we will be able to exceed 900 lbs of books, which was last year’s amount by having everyone in the team donate.

The book drive will end on October 18th and the canned goods drive will end on November 1st.

New Members (September 20, 2014)

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.

In Memoriam (July 8, 2014)

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Tesla Days 2014 (July 7, 2014)

The RoboLancers have been invited to present at the Tesla Days 2014 by the Nikola Tesla Inventors Club, an affiliate of the Tesla Science Foundation.

We will be making a presentation about our team, FIRST Robotics, and the importance of STEM Education in Philadelphia at the Main Branch of the Free Libarary of Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 9th, 2013, between 1:30 and 3:30 PM. WE also be demoing our 2014 FRC robot! Please join us for this interesting and informative presentation, which is free to the public.

Please email the RoboLancers at robolancers@gmail.com if you have any questions about this event.

Location:

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Time:

In between 1:30 and 3:30.

Press Release- Coach Changes (June 17, 2014)

Read it here: Press Release – Coach Changes