Earlier this month February 4-7, our Robotics Team– the Automans (pun on “Ottomans”)– traveled to Prague to compete in the CEESA FIRST High School Robotics Tournament. FIRST is an international nonprofit, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, with half a million student participants globally. We were a team of four: Roberto V., Kaan Y., Arudra R., and Philipp S. with our coach Ms. Hashmi and Mr. Davis. Our other teammates Shahmeer S. and Alpay B. were not able to travel with us, nor was our head coach, Mr. Wotherspoon (as he was travelling with the Math Team who were competing in Sarajevo that same weekend).

It has been an exciting season building our robot. When building, we are required to adhere to CEESA’s specifications of approved parts. Unfortunately a number of those parts cannot be sourced in Turkey, which made the construction of our robot more challenging, but also forced us to develop creative workarounds to achieve our solutions.

Our robot had to be able to perform certain tasks: it had to be able to pick up a block, carry it up a ramp, and deposit the block into a basket on the ramp. When we got to the tournament, our robot did an excellent job in the preliminary testing rounds. However, we had some bad luck during our rounds, some of which was due to faulty scoring in favor of the other team, and some of which were design elements that worked against us (but it taught us a lot in terms of improvements to make for next year). For instance, our robot was designed to drop the block in the basket from only one side, but if the ramp on that side of the basket was occupied by another robot, then ours wasn’t able to make use of the available ramp. Our robot was also very light in comparison to the others, so it was pushed up on another robot during one round. Because the rounds are four teams competing at the same time, you have two robots against two robots, but if one team’s robot is out of commission, then you have the situation where your one robot is competing against two robots. And we experienced that, too.

The good thing, though, is that unlike some other kinds of  tournaments where the competition is devisive, at these robotics tournaments, the community is very collaborative, everyone helps each other, everyone gives advice and tries to help each other do a better job.

During this competition, teams interview with the judges and also submit their engineering notebook. The judges were very impressed with the workarounds we developed due to unavailability of parts and when we interviewed with them, they were even more impressed when they heard how much we had to do to overcome these obstacles. As a result, the Automans won the Motivate Award for our out-of-the-box ingenuity.

This judged award celebrates the team that exemplifies the essence of the FIRST Tech Challenge competition through team building, team spirit and exhibited enthusiasm. This team embraces the culture of FIRST and clearly demonstrates what it means to be a team. This is a team who makes a collective effort to make FIRST known throughout their school and community, and sparks others to embrace the culture of FIRST.

During the tournament, the school from Holland all wore pink suits. They were attracting attention because they are actively trying to get more girls in their school to join robotics. The IICS Automans needs more girls and boys on our team. It is great if you have an interest and some experience in engineering, technology, programming, etc, but we also need people who have artistic skills and having a secretary to help us record in our engineering notebook would be a tremendous addition to our team. Please consider joining and come talk to Mr. Wotherspoon or Ms. Hashmi if you are interested.