In the Swenson Building on Feb. 20, kids from all over Utah, and some from out of state, gathered together to compete for the Utah State Championship of the FIRST Tech Challenge or FTC. The room was full of excitement as the opening ceremonies began.
The day kicked off with words of encouragement from Jared Barrett, the director of FIRST robotics of Utah and a professor from Utah State University. Barrett spoke of about the importance of learning and being the future.
”You guys are the future,” Barrett told competitors. “I have seen nothing that is as powerful as the transformation I’ve seen in your guys’ lives as you approach the future.”
Barrett also said that he hopes the students will learn how to solve problems and learn in a way that hasn’t been done before. Barrett believes that the skills students learn in this competition will translate into real life success.
“The future is yours,” Barrett said. “It is about the journey, about what you learn from this.”
The teams had to score as many points as possible with their robots by completing various tasks. These tasks included moving debris from the field to a designated area, triggering a switch that released objects and using the robot to climb up a makeshift mountain made of metal.
Dana Dellinger, the director of the Center for Technology Outreach and organizer of this event, said that this is the sixth year Weber State University has hosted this competition.
“It is a very time and money sensitive program,” Dellinger said. “But we feel it is worth it because it promotes WSU across the state and promotes EAST across the state.”
Dellinger also said she believes by hosting these competitions more students will be encouraged to go into science, electronics and engineering in Utah.
Dellinger said that new platform at the competition this year involved Android.
“They have one Android on the robot that connects to an Android that the drivers have themselves,” Dellinger said. “And it’s Java programming, so the kids are learning real world programming.”
Dellinger believes that the students working with programming is a good experience that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
Harnek Singh is a volunteer and a father of a team member from Helena, Montana. Their team, the X-Team, came to Utah to compete for the nationals.
Singh said they had heard about the competition from the FTC website and had decided to come here and compete.
“I volunteer as an inspector here,” Singh said. “As an inspector we make sure that robots are following the rules of FTC.”
Chloe Josien is a high school student from Pleasant Grove that competed with her team, The Masters, in the competition. The Masters, coining their team name from the BBC television show “Doctor Who”, said they have learned a lot about robots and programming.
“We’ve learned how to use a whole bunch of tools,” Josien said. “We’ve learned that you can try to build something one way and it can work for a little bit, so you have to learn how to roll with the punches and keep trying.”
David Ferro, the dean of the College of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology, said that the kids competing at FTC were kids that he had met in previous competitions, such as FIRST Lego League.
Ferro said that volunteers are an important part of the competition and that their contributions are helpful.
“There’s a lot of things to do here,” Ferro said. “So if anyone wants to volunteer, it’d be great.”
Ferro said that volunteers can be a referee, inspector or even a DJ.
For more information about robotics competitions and about volunteer opportunities visit http://www.weber.edu/utftc/.