On Dec. 9, the robotics team, the Iron Panthers, held a competition on campus. Sixteen teams from across northern California attended, including four teams that won World Championship titles last season.
The Burlingame Qualifier lasted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, and the alliance composed of Team 12635 (Kuriosity Robotics) and Team 5220 (RoboKnights) won. The two teams are now guaranteed to move on to regional competitions.
The competition was for FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams. In the competition, middle school and high school teams form alliances, each composing of two teams, to complete a specific task designed by the company called FIRST. This year, the challenge is “Relic Recovery,” and the objective is to have robots stack foam blocks, called glyphs, into columns, place a yellow plastic figure, called a relic, outside the walls of the field, and balance on a wobbly platform. They have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete these tasks for points, and the alliance that scores the most points wins the competition.
At Burlingame High School, the FTC team is considered a training team for FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). In FRC, teams have only six weeks to design and build a robot to complete a certain task. The FRC season has not yet started, but teams do know that the challenge will have an old-school arcade theme.
Because the Iron Panthers were hosting the competition, the team could not compete. However, the Burlingame High School FTC team has excelled this season, winning multiple awards and qualifying for regional competitions.
“The FTC team has done great so far this year,” said junior Katherine Mohr, the co-captain of the Iron Panthers team. “We recently competed in Saratoga in November where we were the winning alliance captains, Innovate award winners, Inspire award finalists, and Connect award finalists.”
Each team had a station where they could make last-minute adjustments to their robots, and people huddled around their stations even after the competition began, quickly trying to solve technological problems as they arose. However, most of the work was done prior to the competition, with teams investing hundreds of hours into their robots in the months leading up to the event.
“Usually our team meets three times a week, and those meetings last for about three hours, but this week we ramped up before the competition and met every day of the entire week until really late. Last night we were working until 9 p.m,” said sophomore Ryan Ngoon, the public relations lead for Team 8404 from Leland High School.
“We have about four meeting a week, lasting four to six hours each, and that’s been going on since September,” said junior Callum Keddie, a mechanical engineer for Team 8381 from San Mateo.
The Iron Panthers also put in plenty of their own time organizing the competition. The event took months to plan, and the team spent many hours Friday and Saturday setting up and making sure everything ran smoothly. Volunteers were needed to sell concessions, play music, inspect the robots, serve as announcers and clean up once the competition was done. Christina Wade, the teacher advisor for the Iron Panthers, also needed to reserve the gym for the event, work out financial logistics, and reach out to all the attending teams to compile a program.
Despite the struggle to organize the competition, the Iron Panthers still find it valuable to host competitions. They are good outreach events, and it lets the Iron Panthers connect with the greater Bay Area robotics community.
“Hosting a competition is the best way to get to know all the teams around here, and I’m excited to see how well other teams can perform,” said junior Connie Nong, who is the captain of the Iron Panthers FTC team. “It’s a good way to learn from them. It’s also a good way to interact with other teams and share our passion for robotics.”
“Hosting these events is a very unique way for students to get hands-on experience at being a leader, working on project planning, going through all the ups and downs that people do in the real world when they actually do big projects,” Wade said. “We hope that we’re able to host these events in the future to continue having these great opportunities for students.”