By Jake Rahm
Students from Robo Raiders FTC 7129 of St. Clair County Christian Homeschool Educators competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge North Super-Regional robotics tournament from March 29 – April 1 at the U.S. Cellular Center/DoubleTree Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids, IA. The Robo Raider team is based out of Mascoutah, and of the 11 members of the team, three of them live in Mascoutah—Knut Peterson, Cecily Peterson, and Johnathan Clayton. One of the team mentors, Dr. Denny Davis, also lives in Mascoutah. The rest of the team comes from the surrounding Metro East area.
At the North Super-Regional competition in Cedar Rapids, the top 72 teams from a 14 state radius were represented. At the competition, the Robo Raiders were recognized with the “Inspire” award, which is given to the number one top overall team in the entire competition, based not just on robot performance, but also on a judged interview, personal team interaction with judges, engineering skill and innovation, documentation of the team, its activities, programming skills, engineering decisions, and mentoring activities. Only four teams in the entire United States have been recognized with the “Inspire” award at this level of competition. The Robo Raiders are one of these four teams nationwide!
Over the course of the robotics competition season, students on the Robo Raider team, under the guidance of their mentors, designed and built a robot that uses Android cell phone technology to control the robot, which is built with various plastic and metal parts, many of which are 3-D printed by the team to their own specifications and designs, or custom-fabricated by the team in their workshop. The robot, which the team named “CrossFire,” is roughly 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It was used to compete in a robot challenge called “Velocity Vortex,” an action-packed game that pits robot alliances against one another in a test of precision and speed as robots collect wiffle ball-like particles and shoot them into a center goal. At the end of the game, the robots also need to lift and maneuver a large rubber ball that is larger in diameter than the robot itself! The Robo Raiders have accomplished some of the highest competition scores in the world at various points in the season.
The Super-Regional tournament followed several months of community robotics meets, where students worked out technical bugs and perfected their robot’s mechanical operations. In order to advance to the FIRST Tech Challenge North Super-Regional, a team’s robot must outperform other robots at qualifying tournaments. Only approximately the top 1/3 of teams advance from each of the Qualifying Tournament level and the State Championship level tournaments to be allowed to compete at the Super-Regional level of competition. Being recognized as the top team at the North Super-Regional qualifies the Robo Raiders to advance on to the World Championship Competition which will be held April 26-29, 2017 in St. Louis at Union Station and the Edward Jones Dome. Roughly 130 teams representing schools and communities across the United States and from around the world will compete in the 2017 World Championship Tournament.
The FIRST Tech Challenge is open to students in grades 7-12 and offers them the chance to build robots using math, science, technology and sound engineering principles. For more information about the Robo Raiders team, or to follow their progress, check their web site and social media sites at http://www.roboraiders.net, https://www.facebook.com/roboraidersftc7129/, and https://youtube.com/roboraidersftc7129.