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Local youth win Canadian robotics championship

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 17, 2013 12:53 pm

SWAT Bots team members 16-year-old Steven Lipp (left), Josh Roberts, 14, Sam Allen, 13, and Gavin Roberts, 15, designed, built and programed their award winning robot "Chuck." The robot excelled at an FTC game called Ring it Up, which is essentially a robotic version of tic-tac-toe.
SWAT Bots team members 16-year-old Steven Lipp (left), Josh Roberts, 14, Sam Allen, 13, and Gavin Roberts, 15, designed, built and programed their award winning robot "Chuck." The robot excelled at an FTC game called Ring it Up, which is essentially a robotic version of tic-tac-toe.
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Ring it Up may seem like a simple game: place rings on a nine-peg rack in the centre of a 12-foot square playing field. However, the big catch in the game is what is lifting the rings – robots.

The First Tech Challenge (FTC), a robotic competition for children in grades 7 to 12, was held in Red Deer on Jan. 12, and Airdrie’s local team came out a big winner.

SWAT Bots, the Airdrie team consisting of five boys ages 13 to 16, received several awards at the tournament including an invitation to the World Championships in St. Louis, Miss, in April where they will be representing Canada.

“I was definitely not expecting that but it was pretty neat,” said Gavin Roberts, a SWAT Bots member.

Roberts’ role in the team was to design and operate the robot lift and ramp, an instrumental part of the Ring it Up competition at the tournament.

The lift is used to raise the rings onto the peg rack and the ramp is used to move other robots at least an inch off the ground to win bonus points.

The team, whose members are all home-schooled, was created three years ago with Roberts joining about a year ago.

“I joined because I like to build stuff that has a function,” Roberts said.

He said he knew only one person on the team when he joined but has become good friends with all his team members.

“It’s really fun working together on big projects for a long time,” he added.

SWAT Bots won the Inspire Award in part for their community involvement and gracious attitude throughout the competition, said Roberts.

The team participated in Airdrie Fest, Awesome Airdrie and made an appearance on the local radio station.

The team also mentored a group of younger aspiring robotics engineers in the league a step down from FTC on their Lego robot.

In addition, the team won the Winning Alliance Captains Award at the tournament for its work with the Robo Jaguars, a team they partnered with for the tournament.

Alliance teams work together in a match and score bonus points by lifting each other’s robot.

“We thought they would work well with our robot,” said Roberts of why SWAT Bots chose Robo Jaguars as an alliance partner.

“For one they could lift two rings at once,” he added.

The Rockwell Collins Innovate Award, the final award SWAT Bots received, is for the team that brought the most innovation into their design. SWAT Bots’ robot, which has been dubbed Chuck, was designed, built and programmed by the boys.

“Chuck” performed well at the tournament but Roberts said they will improve the robot further if they decide to go to the World Championships. He said the team would focus on improving the ramp for lifting alliance robots and “some other minor stuff.”

FTC is a part of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a program aimed at motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science and technology.

For more information on the FIRST program visit www.usfirst.org


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