What is FIRST Robotics?
FIRST Robotics is an international league of robotics competitions for various age levels. Our team competes in the FIRST Robotics League which is for high school students.
The season’s game is revealed on the first weekend in January. The teams have approximately 2 months to build a robot that will play in competitions starting at the end of February. The 2020 game had a Star Wars theme:
The youth, with help from mentors, design a robot to play in the competition, and then build it. Our 2020 robot looked like this (this is also the room where we built the robot):
Teams then compete in two qualification tournaments, and try to advance to a regional competition in Southern Virginia, followed by the World competition in Detroit. To give you some idea of what a match is, here is one that we were in:
A typical match is broken up into three parts. For the first 15-20 seconds of the match the robots run on their own. After that, human players take over and drive the robots around to try and score more points for 2-3 minutes. The last 30 seconds of the game are designated as the endgame, where the robots usually try to climb some part of the playing field.
Matches are played with a 3 robot alliance against another 3 robot alliance. During qualification matches, teams are randomly assigned to alliances such that they will either play with or against all other teams. Teams are then ranked and the top 8 teams are designated as alliance captains. The alliance captains each pick two other teams for the playoffs. All of this takes place over a very busy weekend.
One aspect of FRC is that both cooperation and competition are balanced. While you may be competing against one team during the qualifications, you may also be trying to convince them to pick you as an alliance partner during playoffs. This encourages fair play and sportsmanship.
2421 RTR Team Robotics
We are a FRC team made of schools in the Burke/Springfield area. Many teams are sponsored by a school and only allow people from that school to join. We are a community team that has students from Braddock, West Springfield, Lee, Homeschooled children, and other schools.
No experience is expected or required. There is something to do for everyone. A freshman may come in with no experience, and by Junior or Senior year becomes a team captain.
Within our team we break down into smaller teams:
- Build - mechanical design of the robot parts such as the drivetrain, shooter, climber, or intake.
- Electronics - wiring of the control systems, sensors, motors, and pneumatics
- Programming - Developing software to run the robot both autonomously and through driver control, including computer vision.
It is not necessary to commit to one group. People often move between groups depending on the phase or changing interests.
During competition, things change. Even though a small team of 4 is the ones driving the robot, everyone else is involved in repairing and refreshing the robot between matches and scouting other teams.
We recognize people have other things to do. Our schedule is largely based on availability of our youth and mentors. Typically we meet two evenings during the week and then all day Saturday. Toward the competitions, we may meet more often, or individual teams may decide to meet. You do not need to come to all meetings, in fact most people don’t.
There are few meetings outside the build season. Once the last competition is over we typically don’t get back together until October when we start with a few interest sessions to get the team back together for the next year.
If you’re interested in learning more or hearing about our interest sessions, contact Deanne Mahoney.