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




NBC 10

“What the Tech?”:!/news/tech/What-the-Tech—Philly-Robotics-Expo/148589895

“Philly Gears Up for a Tech Takeover”:

Jeff Gelles, Inquirer Staff Writer, “Shooting Hoops at the Bot Expo”:

Short video:

Jeff Gelles, Inquirer Staff Writer, Philly Robotics Expo seeks to inspire a new generation of robot-builders:

Technically Philly

Brian James Kirk, “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:

Zack Seward, At Philly Robotics Expo, students inspire students to think STEM [photos]:

“At Philly Robotics Expo, students inspire students to 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.


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

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

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

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.

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

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 FTC Meet at Temple (Viwing’s PoV)

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.

Crimson FTC Meet at Temple (Michael’s PoV)

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.