First Tech Challenge Season Kick Off

The Utah FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) Kickoff officially launched its 2013-14 FTC season on Saturday, September, 7 2013 at Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum in Clearfield, Utah. The Kickoff is when the years challenge is announced. This is the perfect opportunity for teams to see the new challenge and get a jump start on their projects. This year over 200 attendees eagerly waited to get a first glimpse of this season’s game and field reveal.

FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) is a robotics program that promotes project based learning and is designed to engage student interest in science, technology, engineering and math. “Hill AFB Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Outreach Program works with Weber State University to bring this program to the state of Utah because we are looking to increase the interest, participation, and success of our students in STEM academics as well as future STEM careers. FTC helps us do this by being based on great engineering principles while students are having fun and learning,” says Debbie Roach, Hill AFB STEM Outreach Coordinator.

This year’s game is the “FTC Block Party.” Teams will compete against each other in an alliance format to see who can score more points. In the first challenge teams must place plastic blocks into pendulum goals. They will also be challenged to raise their team alliance flag up a flagpole, raise their robots off the ground using a platform pull-up bar, and end the match with a balanced pendulum to earn extra points.

After the reveal, attendees were encouraged to attend 30 minute breakout workshops on successful coaching, passing inspections, FTC awards, and engineering notebook tips. “I thought it was very effective for our coaches and teams especially those new to FTC because it gave us an opportunity to walk them through what was necessary for a successful year,” says Fran Bradshaw, STARBASE Director.  Bradshaw taught the section on hardware inspection to attendees during one of the breakout sessions.

FTC is more than just a robotic competition. “FTC Team members learn to think like engineers as they go through the process of prototyping, building and testing their robots” says Rainie Ingram, Affiliate Partner for Utah FTC. “They also learn computer programming and problem solving.”

Emphasis and awards are given out for community outreach, robot design, and other real-world accomplishments. “Each team gets a robot kit and manual explaining how the game and how the robot must play. Each team decides how they will compete. But it is not really about winning or losing, it’s about the experience, learning, and working as a team” says Ingram. Scholarships are also available for those involved with FIRST. There are over 875 individual scholarship opportunities with a total value of over $17 million.

To find out more information about FTC in the state of Utah, go to www.weber.edu/utftc   or call Rainie Ingram at 801-626-7785.

Written by Melina Padilla