FIRST Tech Challenge at Guilford High School

ftc_league_mt_2014Illinois FIRST is testing out “league play” for FIRST Tech Challenge, FTC, teams. Team 8003 and the five RPS 205 high school teams are part of the West League.

In this first year of league play, 24 teams from Northern Illinois are divided into two groups of 12 teams. League teams compete in at least three meets. The third meet will be part of the league championship. At the league championship, leagues #1 and #2 will compete separately, and then the top alliances from each league will compete for the League Championship Finalist Alliance and Winning Alliance.

Originally, the second League Meet was scheduled to be played in Rolling Meadows. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Rockford was asked to host this meet. With only a few weeks to prepare, Rockford Robotics rallied to provide a venue – Guilford High School -and volunteers. Our team members served as competition coordinators, referees, field attendants, queuers, announcers, robot inspectors, and team interviewers. Special thanks goes to Chris Magee and Eric Williams for organizing this event with just a few weeks to prepare.

Adopt a Road

2014 adopt a roadRockford Robotics is now part of the Winnebago County Highway Department Adopt-a-Road program. Adopt-a-Road is a promotional campaign to encourage volunteers to keep a highway section free from litter.

Our road is a one mile segment of Springfield Road between West State Street and Cunningham Road. We will be doing clean-ups three times each year. Our first clean up date is Sunday, November 8, 2014.

Inaugrial Rock River Valley FTC Kickoff

robotech_kickoff_2014On Sept 6th, 2014 Rockford Robotics hosted the inaugural Rock River Valley FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff at the Discovery Center in downtown Rockford to celebrate the start of the 2014-2015 FTC season.

Rookie and veteran teams from all over the region came out to attend learn, for the first time, this year’s challenge and attend lectures covering a wide array of topics from programming and CAD to team building and ‘bot shop organization. The event ended with the revealing of the FTC 2014-2015 Game, including the Kickoff Video broadcast and a fully constructed FTC field!

All of the teams in attendance were presented with a tool kit containing Greenlee professional grade hand tools. The kits were a generous donation from Greenlee to the Rock River Valley area FTC teams.

This event was made possible by members of the Rockford Maker’s Network.

CFNIL Grants $20,000 to RPS 205 for Robotics Programs

cfnil_2014_smallThe Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has awarded Rockford Robotics, through RPS 205, a $20,000 grant for the FIRST Robotics Roll Out on August 26, 2014.

RPS leaders hope to have Robotics programs in every elementary, middle, and high school, making RPS 205 the first in the state to have FIRST Robotics available at the K-12 level.

During the 2013-14 school year:

  • Junior FIRST Lego League (K-3) teams were at Froberg, Whitehead, Lathrop, Washington and Brookview.
  • FIRST Lego League (4-8) teams were at Lincoln, Marshall and Froberg. (The Lego League team at Marshall competed at the state level.)
  • Jefferson High School pioneered the district’s FIRST Tech Challenge team, in which students learn to think like engineers.

Mentor Terry Brown Learns More than Basics with U.S. Air Force

It was back to school a little early this summer for 24 FIRST Mentors, including Rockford Robotics Mentor Terry Brown.

The Mentors — who were selected from over 250 applicants from across the country — were invited to attend a U.S. Air Force Leadership Experience at The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, to fine tune their leadership skills and learn a little about rockets at the same time. The Air Force offered this unique opportunity to the Mentors as an extension of its sponsorship of  FIRST.

The two-day training, which focused on teaching teams how to work together to solve complex problems.

“The USAF Leadership Experience was the most exciting and intriguing program I have ever been a part of as an educator. Seeing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education on that large of a level was truly amazing. There’s no doubt that I will be sharing this experience with all my classes, colleagues, and FIRST teams for years to come,”

Mayor Proclaims July 2014 Robotics Month

2014_ mayor_procDuring the July 14, 2014 City Council Meeting, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey proclaimed July 2014 as Robotics Education Month. He cited Rockford Robotics’s efforts in holding programming workshops as part of the Rockford Makers Network at the Pubic Library’s Nordlof Center and their participation in the R2OC planning committee.

Rockford Robotics also was notified that they were awarded a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the Rockford Public Schools Robotics Roll-Out. This will help fund Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL), FIRST Lego League (FLL) and FIRST Technical Challenge (FTC) teams at several RPS schools during the 2014-15 school year. In addition RPS Robotics Roll-Out received just over $5,000 from Alignment Rockford for use specifically for FTC registration and KOP. Once the funds are received equipment will be purchased and teams will be on their way!

Labview Classes

Rockford Robotics hosted programming classes advertised as

“for anyone that had never programmed at all, never programmed in a graphical language  like National Instruments LabVIEW, or just wanted to enhance their skills in LabVIEW for LEGO Mindstorms” in mid-July 2014.

The workshops were available at no charge to students in grades 8 -12. Location was the Downtown Branch of the Rockford Public Library Nordlof Center at 118 N. Main Street, Rockford, Illinois. This event was made possible by Rockford Public Schools and the Rockford Makers Network, with support from Rockford Robotics.

Rockford e~Inventors Class

e-inventorsLocal students received an introduction to electronics and programming via Sparkfun Inventors Kits for Arduino! Rockford Robotics members guided them through lessons that demonstrated common electronics components (LEDs, resistors, potentiometers, analog sensors, and even motors) that can be used on a wide array of projects. Additionally, through the use of the Arduino embedded computing platform, students learned how to control these electronics and write programs that interact with the real world!

The June 23, 2014 session was designed for students in grades 9 – 12. The June 28, 2014 session focused on students in grades 6 – 8.

This workshop was made possible thanks to an In Youth We Trust Grant through the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and in collaboration with the 4-H Tech Wizards.

Congratulations to our Scholarship Winners

2014 coleman schlrRockford Robotics is proud to have two Howard Coleman Scholarship winners among its alumni. Alex McInerney was a 2014 recipient and Tommy Lynch was a 2013 recipient. The scholarship is awarded annually to graduating high school seniors, residing in Boone or Winnebago County, who will major in Engineering, Computer Science, Applied Science, or a comparable technology field. Scholarship winners must personify the innovative spirit of Howard D. Colman.

Mr. Coleman was an inventor and entrepreneur in the fields of small motors, temperature controls, textiles, telecommunications, and machine tools. He is most recognized in the local community as the founder of Barber Coleman Company.

Rockford Robotics is a Wisconsin Regional Semi-Finalist

Rockford Robotics competed in the Wisconsin Regional March 20 – 22, 2014. Sixty teams — some from as far away as California — attended this event.

Our Robot, Om-Nom, was initially a bit temperamental. We suffered through several lost communications connections, two matches where the main circuit breaker tripped, and two matches where the limit switch for the arm breaker tripped. Plus we competed in three matches where one of our alliance partner robots was not functioning. Our pit crew rallied to repair Om-Nom between matches and our drive team was calm under pressure. Though our team only won three of the ten qualifying matches, the points we earned through assists and shooting the ball over the truss drew the attention of higher ranked teams.

The 1st seed team, Charger Robotics (Sussex, WI) invited Robo Riot (Sheboygan, WI) and us to join them in the finals. After some rounds of nail-biting competitions, our alliance finished as semi-finalists.

What a great conclusion to an challenging and exciting robotics season!!