One thing that seems to be a motif with some kids who wind up doing engineering is that they played with LEGOs when they were kids. Well, some keep playing with them as they get older. And there’s a natural progression to it. Once you get into high school, for example, why use plastic bricks when you can build with metal?
Some people feel that way too. And that’s why this last Sunday, at South Meadows Middle School, in Hillsboro Oregon, the First Tech Challenge had the Oregon state championship.
The FTC state championship was held in the gym of South Meadows, with the cafeteria immediately next to the gym used as a pit area. In the pit area, with each of the 24 teams set up to repair/update their robot to better-suit the competition.
At 11:45 there was a nice opening ceremony, and the gym was packed. Team members waved flags around, sported dyed hair, and a couple had mascots: I spotted someone dressed as daft punk, and one in a tiger costume. All of them had team t-shirts, with several interesting designs.
Immediately after that, the championship was underway. Only one team could win the championship, but teams were randomly assigned, so everyone had to work together at times to help themselves. And they had to work together. Some of the biggest points could be won from both robots balancing on a see-saw at the end of a round, along with a third, uncontrolled object. Place a basketball on a see-saw, then get on. Then get a friend of yours to get on the other side. Now walk back and forth until the see-saw is balanced. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
On top of that, the folks on your allied team also get those big points, which would mean you’re also helping your competition. Devious! But everyone was very cavalier and friendly, which in the end is pretty cool.
The whole point behind this tournament wasn’t necessarily to win. That’s not entirely true, because the prize is pretty big ($27,000 for FTC, in the form of a scholarship), but there’s kind of an underlying point: every single one of these teams did outreach programs. For example: my friends Untitled-8 have done a lot of programs, but their coolest one is a HALO: Reach tournament. (You can read more about that in this post.) Every team had things like this going, too. It was really inspiring to see.
The state championship was a pretty exciting event, full of a lot of energized people. And some of the teams were brand new. This seems like something which isn’t too difficult to get in to. Sign up for next year!