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Nuclear core team concentrates to win the first round. ( Mustafa Alshilati/ the signpost)

A competition broke out on Feb. 10 in the Swenson Gym as robots built by teenagers went to war.

According to teen participants ages 12-18, the For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST) Tech Championship is a sport for the mind. Strategy, problem solving and teamwork are all necessary skills to develop if competitors stand a chance at winning this competition.

The goal of the game is to build, program and operate a robot that is capable of moving and lifting cubes from the center of the battlefield to a designated slot. The game is made up of two teams, red and blue. Each team is made up of two robots, both designed and built by different participants.

A participant may be an ally during one round and an enemy the next. Teamwork plays a specifically important role in this competitive game. A series of three-minute elimination rounds take place until one team is left standing.

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“It’s such a blast but incredibly nerve-wrecking,” said Bailee Allen, the 17-year old team captain of The PrestidigiTaters. “We put so much time and thought into these robots and it’s really fulfilling to see them finally compete. We obviously want to win, but there are so many talented teams. The competition is pretty tough.”

Teams gathered from Utah, Montana, Idaho and California to compete for awards, scholarships and to progress to the national FTC. There were a wide range of creative team names and uniquely designed robots made for competitive afternoon.

The participant-proclaimed “most exciting” time of the competition is the autonomous period, the first 30 seconds of each round. During this period, robots are not controlled manually, but must operate using only pre-programmed instructions. The robots locate and move the cubes completely free from participant interaction.

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“All of these teens are self-proclaimed ‘nerds and geeks’ and they are proud of it,” said Laurel Dodgion, Southern Utah University professor and Southern Utah FTC director. “Building and programming a robot to complete a task all on its own is not easy.”

Throughout the competition, participants are able to interact with each other, discuss programming techniques, strategize and build friendships. Gracious professionalism is a common theme found within the teams and their actions towards others.

“I love watching all these kids interacting with each other,” said Dana Dellinger, director of the Center of Technology Outreach for the College of Engineering, Applied Science & Technology. “They are deeply engaged with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math of FIRST but also with the people. They are smart, impressive kids and Weber State is fortunate to have the opportunity to bring these kids to our campus to meet, compete, learn, have fun and mostly be inspired.”

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For additional information on FTC events, visit

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