Piedmont host to robotics competition

Eric Loucks

The TigerBots, all-girls FTC team from Notre Dame in Belmont, won the highest honor, the Inspire Award.

Sixteen teams from all over the Bay Area converged at Morrison Gym on Sunday, December 9 to compete in the inaugural FIRST Tech robotics competition held in Piedmont.Student teams made up from 7th to 12th graders competed in this season’s space-themed challenge Rover Ruckus. Scotbotics and the Piedmont Makers hosted the tournament. Although no local teams competed, PHS senior Sam Orta served as MC for the event, and judges included former school board member Doug Ireland, parents Helen Potter, John Lambert, PHS computer science teacher Jana Branisa, among others.

Ranging in age from middle school to high school seniors, with anywhere from five to 10 teammates, FIRST Tech teams design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge to perform certain tasks in an area similar to a boxing ring. The clashes take place during three minute bouts between alliances of two partnered teams from the competing teams.

While there was broad representation of boys, girls, experienced and novice players, enthusiasm was the common denominator. Dozens of cheering participants and parents watched the action from the bleachers, while the judges milled around taking notes and supervising the raucous activity. “It was a fun day and I was impressed by the creativity and sophistication of the different teams competing,” said Ireland.

Judging included an extensive interview with each team to review their engineering plans, notebooks, designs, presentations, team assignments, cooperation and community outreach. After the interview, the teams then battled each other to gain points in a game whose object was to motor around, sorting and moving “minerals” in to collection areas while navigating around the ring. There were a variety of special designs employed to create unique capabilities for their “bost.” These included docking systems, harvesting arms, wheels allowing multilateral movement.

“The event was a huge success! As usual, our community all pitched in to help – students, parents, community members and the Piedmont Unified School District,” said Tournament Director, and Scotbotic parent, Helen Potter. For anyone who missed the excitement, stay tuned for next year: “We plan to make it an annual event,” Potter added.

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