The Andover Robotics Club hosted a First Tech Challenge (FTC) qualifier entitled “ROBOstorm” with eleven New England teams in attendance on Saturday, January 10, at AHS.

Eleven teams from New England were in attendance to compete — with Team 8644, The Brainstormers from Lexington, taking first.

Andover Robotics Club members Dan Combs, Sebastian Harder, Luke Nawrocki, Chris Zhao and Julian Amirault (from left to right) work on their robots enjoy downtime at the competition. (Photo by Elena Primes)
Andover Robotics Club members Dan Combs, Sebastian Harder, Luke Nawrocki, Chris Zhao and Julian Amirault (from left to right) work on their robots enjoy downtime at the competition. (Photo by Elena Primes)

Andover’s two teams, ARC Lightning and ARC Thunder did not compete in this qualifier, but are currently ranked 5th and 7th, respectively, in the “Sundae League”which consists of twelve teams in total.

First Tech Challenge (FTC) is a competitive and cooperative competition where two teams are paired up against two opposing teams on a field to compete in a game. This year’s challenge is titled “Cascade Effect” and gives teams the tasks of maneuvering plastic golf balls into large plastic tubes. The match is composed of a thirty second autonomous period (robots programmed to perform tasks autonomously) and a two-minute teleop period (robots controlled by joysticks). FTC is designed to enforce the engineering process because participants have to design, build, wire and program a functioning robot.

FTC attracts students from all over the nation who have a passion for engineering. Cameron Quirk, a member of Team 133, The Arrows from Needham, said, “It allows you to work with team to build a robot and solve tasks together.” Robotics heavily depends on working as a team and building off each other’s ideas.

According to Noah Appleby, president of the Andover Robotics Club, Andover was asked to host this competition because of the past successful competitions that they have organized. Andover has devoted countless hours to making sure this event is a success and it proved to be one, said Appleby.

FTC has also impacted the classroom community by giving students an extracurricular activity that helps them excel in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) education, which is an area that some students may not be heavily exposed to in their average school day. Mrs. Reidy, the club advisor said, “The fact that students can actually build these robots and drive them and watch them perform is great.” FTC is a very hands-on process and enhances students’ ability to learn about robotics.

Teams surround the FTC field in the Dunn Gym in preparation for a match. (Photo by Elena Primes)
Teams surround the FTC field in the Dunn Gym in preparation for a match. (Photo by Elena Primes)

An alumna of the Andover Robotics Club, Leah Holt is now a freshman majoring in robotics at WPI. According to her, FTC definitely helped in her preparations for college. “It ties into electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science, the three main facets of robotics,” said Holt.

Team 8644, The Brainstormers from Lexington, successfully took first at the competition and also won the prestigious Inspire Award. The Inspire Award winner is presented by the judges to the team that portrays an ideal FTC team – one that “serves as an inspiration to what this program, and the young minds involved, can accomplish.”

By Elena Primes