Timothy Christian School is preparing to host the state-qualifier ‘Frozen Frenzy’ Robotics tourney for the 3rd straight year, one may ask, what is FTC robotics? FIRST Tech Challenge is a robotics competition for students in grades 7-12, featuring about 140 teams from New Jersey and 9000 from all over the world. Teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete as alliances against other teams in a game released each September by FIRST. This year the Cascade Effect game requires teams to score balls in rolling goals of various heights.
Tournaments during the regular season (September – February) are divided into meets and state qualifiers. 8-16 teams compete in a meet for points in the team ranking system. A state qualifier is a larger event for 24-36 teams, where teams vie not only for points in the ranking system, but also for invitations directly to the state championship held in March. Qualifying tournaments fill 36 of the 48 available spots at the FTC state championships. The top-ranked unqualified teams vie for the 12 additional spots in a one-tournament regional playoff at the end of the regular season. Top ranked teams advance from the state tournament to the Super Regionals and then on to the FTC World Championships held in St. Louis in April.
Full-day meets and all qualifiers are divided into two halves. The morning session consists of five qualifying matches. Four teams compete in each match as two sets of partners called the red and blue alliances. The match list, released immediately prior to the beginning of the tournament, randomly places teams in the matches so that a partner in one match may become an opponent in another match. Pre-scouting of teams is an important competition strategy that provides teams with idea of how a match will play out.
Each 2 ½ minute match consists of a 30 second autonomous period where the robot runs by itself according to a pre-selected program and a 2 minute driver controlled period. The final 30 seconds of a match are called the end game, and special scoring opportunities are available during that period. The score earned by an alliance is shared by both teams in the alliance.
Two kinds of points are awarded. A team earns 2 qualification points for a win and 1 for a tie. Each team also receives the points scored by the losing team as ranking points. Ranking points are used as tie-breakers in the team rankings and are an indication of the strength of the opposition. It is always better to have a high scoring match than a blow-out.
Following the morning qualification rounds is the Alliance Selection process. The top four or five ranked teams are named Alliance Captains and select two other teams to join them in the elimination rounds. These alliances remain together for the rest of the tournament in best-of-three quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship matches. The winning alliance and finalist alliance receive awards at the end of the tournament.
Aside from match play, each team is required to provide an engineering notebook of their progress, and prepare a team interview. Judges use these, as well as observations in the team “pit” and robot performance, to decide on the Judged Award winners. Some of the awards given by the judges are the THINK (notebook), CONNECT (community outreach), MOTIVATE (team spirit), CONTROL (programming), INNOVATE (creativity), and the Best-in-Show INSPIRE. Winning one of these awards may also qualify a team for the state tournament.
This season, Timothy Christian School is fielding two teams: Team 4301, the Tigers, and rookie team 8421, the RoboCubs. Currently, among unqualified teams, 8421 is ranked 4th in the state and 4301 is ranked 5th.
Below are the results from the first four tournaments that Timothy Christian School competed in:
Brunswick Eruption Meet:
4301: Alliance Captain, CONNECT Award
8421: Finalist Alliance
Fall Harvest Qualifier:
8421: Alliance Captain, THINK award 2nd runner-up
4301: THINK award 1st runner-up
Cookie Carnage Meet:
8421: 5th place ranking
4301: 3rd place ranking
P-Town Throw-Down Meet:
8421: 1st place ranking
4301: 2nd place ranking
Next up for the Timothy Christian School teams are the Jersey Shore Weekend Meet on January 10th in Farmingdale and the Frozen Frenzy Qualifier on January 17th at Timothy Christian School.