With two clangs of a starter’s bell, four robots launched off starting pads, following coded instructions for 30 seconds before Monrovia Unified students took over the controls to stack foam blocks into designated goal zones.
Families and friends cheered on as 15 robotics teams competed for top points during the first contest of the 2017-18 FIRST Relic Recovery Game, held Dec. 2 in Santa Fe Computer Science Magnet School’s gymnasium. Of the 15 robotics teams, 10 represented Monrovia Unified middle and high schools.
“The first competition is always stressful, but you get used to it and learn how to focus on your robot,” Santa Fe eighth-grader and Cougarobotics Alpha coach Maria Ortiz said. As the coach, Ortiz communicates with the team alliance and she directs her drivers to help find the best maneuverable options for their robot.
The field is divided into red and blue alliances with two randomly selected teams making up each alliance. Each team consists of two drivers and a coach. Teams score points for the number of stacked blocks placed in the goal zones and on the complexity of tasks completed in a two-minute window. During the last 30 seconds of the match, teams can earn extra points for recovering golden relics – four plastic figures positioned in the corners of the square field.
“I enjoy the challenge of starting with something that seems impossible and then working with my team to figure out solutions,” said Ortiz, who has been a Cougarobotics member for two years.
Monrovia Unified robotics teams snatched the top four spots by finishing the competition with the highest points scored. Monrovia High School’s Graveyard Shift took first place, Suit Bots placed in second and Team Loki came in at fourth. Clifton Middle School’s Hippie Bots took third place.
FIRST Relic Recovery Games, presented by Qualcomm Inc., consist of four league events with points carrying over from each meet. The five teams with the highest points at the conclusion of the fourth event will progress to the interleague championships in February.
Roberto Orozco, a Monrovia High School senior who has participated in robotics competitions since the sixth-grade, has volunteered at Santa Fe for three years to help prepare students for upcoming matches.
“By going back and helping the younger students, it creates a stronger robotics program at Monrovia Unified schools,” Orozco said. “We can bring our knowledge from past competitions and challenges to help make the middle school teams more successful.”
Santa Fe science teacher Yvonne Koskela, who has organized Santa Fe’s robotics teams since its inception six years ago, said that the number of teams at Monrovia High School has increased to meet the demand of incoming middle schoolers. Koskela ensures Monrovia Unified robotics remain strong by helping her students apply to the high school teams.
“Robotics competitions are fantastic ways to get students excited about what they are learning,” Monrovia Unified Board President Bryan Wong said. “These robotics contests are a way to prepare students for technology-based jobs by teaching them how to collaborate and work in groups, which are important skills for the workforce and for life.”
FIRST Tech is a national organization that aims to inspire students to be leaders in science and technology.
“Monrovia Unified is committed to creating opportunities for every student to explore and create,” Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian said. “These competitions motivate students to perform at higher levels and apply their classroom learning in a unique setting. The sense of pride expert and enthusiastic teachers instill in curious and competitive students is part of the Monrovia Unified legacy.”