Rock It Like A Sprockette

in ARS News/Features/Showcase by

Scoring goals isn’t just for humans.

In fact, the ARS FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) Robotics team or the “Sprockettes” aim to have their robot raise a flag, go up a bridge, swing from a bar, and put blocks into a goal all within a 3 minute time period to gain points. This can be a challenge, especially when you’re learning the programming as you go.

“It’s really challenging, yet fun at the same time,” says Kyrie Bouressa, grade 11.

The practice arena that the Sprockettes constructed to test their robot
The practice arena that the Sprockettes constructed to test their robot

The FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) is a program through FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to design accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Every year, FTC makes a robotics challenge for teams across the globe. These teams go to scrimmages for practice, then go to qualifying tournaments to compete for positions at the championship tournaments. The teams who get the most points in the arena from completing tasks are able to move up in the ranks. Competitions range from region to world, where teams from places like China and Japan compete with national winners from the US.

“There’s all this information and we’re just trying to sift through it,” says Shireen Dadmehr, teacher sponsor of the robotics program, “We didn’t know programming, and we didn’t know how to build a robot. Our goal is to get up to speed with FTC, but also not come in last.”

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Annalise Martinez (11) and Jessie Ross (12) work hard on the robot’s arm to pick up blocks.

Despite knowing little about programming and robots, the Robotics team has made major strides in the past year. They came in 17th at the last scrimmage, and plan to make it to the top half at their first competition this Saturday.

“We’ve only had one scrimmage so far, but we didn’t have everything working then. Our robot moved around, though, so we’re excited about that.” says Jessie Ross, grade 12. Ross and Annalise Martinez are working hard on creating a shovel for the robot to scoop up blocks and put them in a goal to score points. “Making some kind of mechanical thing that will pick up blocks and spin has been pretty difficult, so we changed our design from lever to a pulley,” says Ross.

To practice the challenge set out for them, the Sprockettes had to construct an arena that they could set up at school. Supplies for robot parts cost, however. The team has been fundraising and applying for grants for these parts, but they’ve had to pay out of pocket for most things at first.

“Next year it will be way easier,” says Dadmehr, “We won’t have to learn the program, buy new robot parts or mats [for the practice arena]. Every year we’ll gain more knowledge and we’ll have more expertise our robot.”

The Sprockettes at a bake sale, fundraising for robot parts
The Sprockettes at a bake sale, fundraising for robot parts

 Follow the ARS Sprockettes on Facebook to see their progress!

To find out more about FTC Robotics, go to: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc

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