On the 23rd, OMSI held the Oregon Science and Engineering Festival, where ORTOP had various exhibits to demonstrate what the Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program is all about. There was a specific emphasis on the First Tech Challenge, the high school program.
This song was playing in the background
when I first walked in.
Upon entering, you could see various FTC tables, where individual teams were working on their robot designs for this year, or giving information to visitors. There was a demo arena as well; FTC has a few stock robots to teach newcomers the basics, before they go to design their own robot. These stock robots were controlled with gamepads, with the goal of transporting items in the arena to goal boxes.
Walking into the auditorium, a much larger arena was set up. This is where a few teams were scrimmaging, using their FIRST Robotics Competition robots from the previous year (this year’s teams are not yet in the build season). They played on 2 v 2 teams, and the winner was whoever passed more soccer balls through their team’s goalboxes.
The beginning of each round had a short autonomous portion. According to one student, “it’s the programmer’s time to shine.” And I did see a few points scored at this time.
After that, the robots were controlled with some joysticks, from outside the arena. This is where most of the points were scored.
You can’t just look, though. I eventually got the chance to talk to a few teams, to see what they were all about.
Play for a cause. Play HALO for Science.
One team I encountered was Untitled-8, from Lakeridge high school. Nathan, Andrew, James, Sean, Ben and Aaron are all Freshmen this year, but they’ve been around for a while. Except for James, who is putting in his first year, the team has been active for as many as six years. They were all very enthusiastic to be a part of this, too.
By the way: The second O in ORTOP stands for Outreach. And that principle is seen throughout. Untitled-8 is raising money to get a science lab built for River Grove Elementary, and is doing that in a pretty great way.
They’re hosting a HALO: Reach tournament. Right now, entry is expected to be $5. And they’re in the process of looking for sponsors to supply prizes. I’m going to get in touch with the team again so I can find more information about this.
Another team I talked to referred to themselves pretty simply as Team 1540. They’re from Catlin Gabel.
This team is pretty big: 25 members. I talked to Tyler, Gene, Tucker and Michael, all of whom were well-spoken and well-informed. The team has been around since 2005, according to their site, and has a pretty impressive list of awards. Last year, they won the Regional Championship, and also won the Chairman’s Award.
Their outreach programs are pretty cool, too. They’ve done work at the Oregon Zoo, fixing a hay baler–and one student mentioned something else. From their outreach section: “We’ll use our robotics skills to benefit the community by building a robot that will shoot apples and fruit for the entertainment of the herd of seven elephants.” Beyond that, they’ve got a long list of other outreach programs they’re a part of.
These are two great examples of the kind of people found at OMSI for this festival. The festival itself was filled with a pretty wide age-group, from little kids to one group of grandparents I spotted. Everyone shared a common interest in robotics, at least on some level.
January is the first really busy month for FTC folks, according to the schedule in the middle of the page. Expect to hear more on it later.
- List of qualifying tournaments which are free and open to the public