Worlds collide in St. Louis at the FTC World Championship

Team+Boson%27s+robot.

Tiffany Skaggs

Team Boson’s robot.

Local robotics teams compete in the First Tech Challenge World Championship, a robotics contest in which teams from all over the world compete, at the Edward Jones Domes, April 24-27.

Teams come from as far as the Netherlands, China and Australia to test their robots in the championship.

“The FTC World Championship is a great time for all the different teams to come together and share ideas and compete against each other in a friendly environment,” Landon Payne, robotics club member, said.

Teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams, according to www.usfirst.org.

The competitive season starts naming the challenge for the season at the beginning so that the participants can construct a robot and make revisions to it throughout the season in preparation for the world championship if they advance.

“This year’s game is a lot like a big game of Tic-Tac-Toe,” Chris Novatny, robotics club member, said. “There’s a big vertical rack with little pegs on it, and we have these little plastic donuts that we have to put on them and you get extra points depending on where you place the little rings. It’s essentially a big game of Tic-Tac-Toe, but you’re not doing it, the robots are doing it, so it’s a lot of fun.”

FTC gives awards for the competition winner as well as other honorary titles. But Mr. Robert Spellmeyer, robotics sponsor, said one of the biggest benefits of competing is the recognition.

“You get trophies and a big banner, and you’re there in the Edwards Jones Dome in front of thousands and thousands of screaming robot geeks who appreciate what you just did,” Mr. Spellmeyer said.

To qualify to compete in the world championship, teams have to advance from state and regional competitions; 128 teams will be competing in the FTC World Championships this year, according to www.usfirst.org.

The Oddly Charged Particles, one team that will be competing this year, is made up of seven students from the district.

The team qualified to be in the World Championship after competing in and being the winning alliance captain at the Arkansas State Championship.

“I’m really excited for the championship,” Alex Roberds, Oddly Charged Particles member, said. “I really enjoyed the time that we spent there last year because you got to meet people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s just a really fun two days to spend with people who love robotics.”

Roberds is one of two EHS students on their privately-funded team; the other is Chris Novatny.

The remaining five members attend Marquette High school, two of which are Ian Pittwood, whose house is the team’s base for everything and whose dad is their mentor, and Rob Ethelmen, their robot designer.

Each team member has essentially their own role on the team.

The game this year, although fun, is quite challenging and made the Oddly Charged Particles change their design of their robot.

“Usually when we build a robot, we basically build a box and put everything that we need inside the box in order for the robot to function. This year we had to completely work it inside-out almost, so we have a pretty interesting design,” Novatny said. “The robot design has proved quite successful in our past competition. We’ve made quite a few adjustments that we believe has made it very competitive for the world championships.”

The Oddly Charged Particles have been working on the same robot since September and are prepared to compete in the FTC World Championship.

Another team that will be competing got invited at the last minute when another team could not travel to St. Louis is the EHS school-sponsored team Team Boson.

Team Boson won the Missouri State championship two years ago and went on to compete in the World Championship that year, too.

The team now consists of 11 students: Ryan Adler (10), Jacob Boehm (12), Keegan Emmert (12), Andrew Floyd (9), Mickie Ivanov (12), Patrick Jeep (12), Chet Montefering (11), Hemal Patel (12), Zac Rawls (9), Jacob Tucker (10) and Jon Wilson (12).

Team Boson will share their progress at the world championships on the EHS-hub Twitter and facebook accounts. Check back for updates.