Education

Two Monrovia Unified Robotics Teams Advance to World Championships

Clifton Middle School’s Hippie Bots (front row) are advancing to their first-ever World Championships after their win at the Robotics Regional Competition at Monrovia High School on March 9. – Courtesy photo / MUSD

FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship to be held in Houston April 17-20

Two Monrovia Unified teams from Monrovia High School and Clifton Middle School are advancing to the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championships in Houston, Texas after overcoming adversity in head-to-head challenges at the Regional Championships at Monrovia High School on March 9. The competition featured the top 48 teams from the Southern California region, which stretches from Santa Barbara to the San Diego County border.

After a series of all-day competitions, the Kings and Queens from Monrovia High and the Hippie Bots from Clifton formed an alliance with the Brain Stormz of Camarillo and went on to win the tournament championship. They overcame mechanical failures and fatigue to not only win the event, but also put up two of the top 10 match scores in the state for this season. Out of over 7,000 FTC teams around the world, only 320 qualify to compete in the World Championship, and only 148 qualify for their performance on the field.This will be the third trip to the World Competition for the Kings and Queens and the first trip for the Hippie Bots.

“Having two teams qualify from the same city is special and impressive, especially considering one is a middle school,” Clifton Middle School robotics program coordinator Paul Flores said. “Success does not just happen – it takes innovation, critical thinking and an uncommon commitment to achieving excellence. Each team was able to fix or adapt to the obstacles they faced to ultimately win the championship.”

Three other teams from Monrovia High competed at the Regional Competition, including Graveyard Shift, Team Loki, and the SuitBots, gaining invaluable experience and honing their skills.

“Success in robotics should not be measured by how far the robot advances in its competitions, but by what happens inside the team and inside the student,” MHS robotics program coordinator Tom Dobson said. “It is in the things that are learned, relationships that are built, and the experiences that are had.”

Monrovia High School’s Kings and Queens show off their robot after their win at the Robotics Regional Competition on March 9. The team is advancing to the World Championships in Houston, Texas in April. – Courtesy photo / MUSD

Each FIRST Tech Challenge student team designs and builds their own robot each season from aluminum shapes, metal and plastic sheet, and customized machined metal and 3D-printed parts. Robots compete in teams of two in “alliances” against other pairs on a 12-by-12-foot field to see which alliance can complete the most tasks in a 2.5 minute period. Before the start of the match the robots have to fit into an 18-by-18-by-18 cube, but can unfold and expand to any size once the match begins.

This year’s game “Rover Ruckus” has a space theme where robots act as though they are exploring a distant planet and navigating obstacles to gather mineral samples and claim territory by dropping a team flag in a designated spot. In matches the robots are required to detach from hanging above the field surface on a raised hook on a simulated planetary lander, identify objects on the field by color, and navigate accurately around the field to park in a simulated “crater.” Then the robots collect plastic cubes and ball “minerals” from inside the crater, separate them, and deposit them into storage hoppers in the lander 30 inches off the floor. Finally the robot has to reattach to the hook on the lander and raise itself back above the surface to prepare to return to Earth. All this while coordinating with a partner robot and while sharing the field with an opposing team of robots intent on accomplishing the same tasks.

The robot of the Kings and Queens, “Sir Gawain.” – Courtesy photo

Though each FTC team designs their robots to accomplish the same objectives, the robot they design and the team’s choice of name and identity are distinctly different. The Monrovia teams are no exception. The Kings and Queens are true to their name and compete resplendent in purple and black renaissance costumes with gold crowns for the boys and eye-catching purple and gold dresses and gold tiaras for the girls. Their robot, named “Sir Gawain” is striking for his regal purple and gold livery and for his elegant design. The Hippie Bots sport a red-white-and-blue tie dye look harking back to the 1960s. Their robot, named “Bot Marley,” is a purposeful square design that is all business. Both robots are strong performers.

This marks the fourth year that Monrovia High School’s 9-year-old FTC robotics program has sent a team to the World Champions. This is the first time Clifton Middle School has advanced a team. The success of the Kings And Queens and Hippie Bots caps a strong year for the robotics programs of the Monrovia School District which fields 10 FTC teams, 6 at Monrovia High and two each at Clifton and Santa Fe Middle Schools. Of the 10 Monrovia teams, five qualified as one of the 48 teams that advanced to the Regional Championship.

The Kings and Queens and the Hippie Bots are actively seeking tax-deductible donations and company sponsorships to help cover the approximate $17,000 cost each of taking the teams to Houston in April. Donations may be made through their GoFundMe pages at gofundme.com/kings-and-queens-to-worlds-2019 or gofundme.com/hippiebots2019.

March 14, 2019

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