Dublin’s robotics program is rolling into new territory.
A FIRST Tech Challenge, or FTC, team was created at Coffman High School this fall to act as a stepping stone between the FIRST Lego League, or FLL, experience in middle school and theFIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC, at the high school level.
Funded through a grant from the Dublin Foundation and the Dublin Robotics Boosters, the inaugural FTC team in Dublin City Schools has ten freshmen piloting the program.
Coach Jim Roscoe said the difference between the FLL and FRC are size and complexity.
“This is a good stepping stone from FIRST to FRC,” he said.
Senior Joe Cassidy is mentoring the new FTC team and agreed.
“The sheer size is different,” he said, of both the robot and the team. “It’s a lot bigger team. You’re going from 10 to 12 people to a team of 50 people.”
The new program “is not as limited as FRC where you have a six week build period,” Roscoe said.
While the FRC high school program starts in January with a six weeks to build and program before shipping the robot to competition, practice for the FTC started the second week of school and has the team meeting three days a week to build and program the robot.
The challenge is to build a robot that can move rings from one part of the playing field to another, while working with another team determined the day of the competition, said team member
Deepthi Thumuluri. Weighted rings that are indistinguishable from the others are thrown in and can be put in a different location for more points.
According to Thumuluri, the team has 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the challenge and during the first 30 seconds the robot must be controlled by programming. After that, the robot must be controlled by team member via wireless remote.
“With FLL we were a lot younger and trying to figure out how to work together,” she said. “At this point now we’re old enough to have a passion for this. It’s more challenging, but it’s a lot more fun too.”
Ananya Rajagopal comes to the FTC from a winning Sells Middle School team and said she plans to join the FRC team in January, but wanted this experience too.
“I was going to do FRC. It’s mainly senior dominated so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do anything,” she said. “I thought this would be a good way to switch to FRC.”
While FLL made students also focus on a project and core values, the FTC challenge is based on the robot.
“I like it a lot,” Rajagopal said. “I’m learning a lot. The challenge this year is more complex than FLL.”
The team is in the midst of building the robot that comes from a kit. The first competition is in January at the Wellington School, Roscoe said, where the team has the chance to qualify for the state championship.
“It’s been a great learning process for all so far,” he said, adding that the team learns from trying to solve an open-ended problem with the robot. “They’ll get to see how other teams solved the problem at the competition. That’ll be very powerful.”