Friday, September 1, 2017

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 KING TeC FRC #2169 First Robotics Competition in Peoria, Illinois

2017 First Robotics Competition in Peoria, Illinois
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 19, 2017

It's FIRST Robotics season again, so we drove to Peoria, Illinois for this weekend's regional tournament.

We went to Peoria to cheer on Prior Lake High School's FRC Robotics team, KING TeC #2169.  Here's the release video for this year's robot.

This year's game is a fun one called FIRST Steamworks.  Here's the official game video for how it's played.  The kids saw this video back in January and then had only 6 weeks to build a robot for the tournaments.  They're not allowed to work on it again except for a few hours before the tournament begins so it's always a lot of pressure to be ready.

This year, the team's strategy was to be one of the best gear scoring robots in the world.  Based on their results in this tournament, I think they are doing pretty well in this regard.

Being able to hang at the end of each match is also worth quite a few points, so that was another function they wanted to be able to accomplish.  I believe they achieved this goal in every match but one so they should be pretty happy with that performance.

Between each match, the kids bring the robot back to the pits to work on it.  It's pretty intense kind of like a NASCAR pit stop, but I was very impressed at how well the kids work together to accomplish what needs to be done in a timely fashion.

There's a team dedicated to programming the robot to make sure the robot can perform by itself in autonomous mode and respond to the commands of the human drivers during Tele-Op mode.  Other students are in charge of different departments like mechanical, electrical, drive train, and the other functions of the robot.  They have to strategize and negotiate on the fly which is pretty fascinating to witness.

Other students participate in the tournament in scouting and spirit roles.  All the kids in the stands always have a real good time supporting the team.

This team is full of great kids who are passionate about supporting KING TeC.  It's a lot of fun coming to these tournaments because the kids are singing and dancing all through the day and the robot matches are extremely competitive and exciting.

There's a bunch of fun parents that we get to hang out with as well.

Even the coaches come up and hang out with us from time to time. 

We had a great group of coaches and mentors this year.  Our team has a very solid group of students who pretty much design and build the robot all on their own. The mentors help challenge their ideas, make sure they are thinking things through and follow engineering processes that are used in industry today.  These kids are building skills that they will most definitely be using later in their careers.

When we came down to the pits on Saturday morning, we were interested to see that several judges were stopping by to talk to the team in greater depth about the robot and it's technical capabilities.  Quite a few of the judges visited and spent considerable time with the team which made us think they had a chance to win one of the big awards of the tournament.

KING TeC performed very well in the qualification matches and ended with the 7th best score out of 40 robots.  For the finals, they were selected by the 2nd ranked robot to join their alliance and battled several other very competitive teams to advance to the finals.  But not before winning two extremely close matches in the semi-finals by the same exact score of 250-249.  It made us feel bad for the other alliance because that really sucks to lose two matches that were that close, but we were still happy to win and advance.  We ended up in the finals against the defending World Champion robotics team called Roboteers out of Tremont, Illinois.  Our alliance put up a pretty good fight, but ended up being defeated.

Losing in the finals did not mean we left the tournament empty handed.  KING TeC was awarded the Chairman's Award for the tournament which is considered to be the most prestigious award at FIRST.  It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.  This team has a long history of success and has done so much to promote STEM over the years.  This group of students and the alumni that came before them really deserve a lot of praise for the effort and hard work they've put into this program.  We are very proud of all of them.

The team was so excited to achieve this honor.  It was really a great way to end a long and hard fought tournament full of so many great teams from schools all over the Midwest.

It feels like only a short time ago that these kids were freshman, but they are now the ones graduating in a few months.  The program should continue to be very successful in future years based on all the young talent I witnessed in action over the past couple of days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Prior Lake Robotics 2016 Minne Mini Tournament

Prior Lake Robotics 2016 Minne Mini Tournament
November 20, 2016

In November, Prior Lake Robotics hosted the 2016 Minne Mini Tournament.  The event gets about 2000 visitors to come watch some exciting robot on robot action.

The tournament has 36 teams from around the state of Minnesota who come to Prior Lake High School to compete in last year's First Robotics Challenge.  It's a nice way for the younger kids to get experience in participating in an actual tournament to help them prepare for the 2017 game which will be announced in early January.

Our high school team is KING TeC #2169 and they have had a very successful run over the years at competing in various tournaments.  These matches are a lot of fun to watch.

Students are responsible for designing, building, programming, and operating the robot each year from scratch to perform a series of tasks to score points during the game.  It's usually pretty stressful getting the robot ready on the night before a tournament.

Parents and friends of the program prepare meals for the huge number of volunteers it takes to set up the Mini Minne Tournament.

The field is pretty massive and has to be transported by semi truck.  Volunteers work into the late hours of the night to be certain it's ready on time.

It takes a lot of volunteer hours to put together a tournament like this and these ladies put in a ton of effort to make it a success.

Before the tournament, students teach a variety of classes to other teams on how to be more successful in competing in First Robotics.  This photo shows a class on Java programming.  Cooperative competition or "Cooperatition" is one of the fundamental principles of First Robotics.

Not a lot of robotics teams have their own band, but KING TeC's does a great job playing the national anthem to start the show.

Judging these robotics teams can be quite challenging with so many talented students involved, but we're lucky to have a lot of great judges who help us each year.

The KING TeC drive team was intensely prepared for a day full of competition.

Outside of the tournament floor, our FTC teams had a chance to show off their skills and answer questions.  Their season is already well under way with some of our Prior Lake Robotics teams advancing through the various levels of competition.

At the same time that the high school FRC tournament was happening, Prior Lake Robotics also hosted a tournament for the First Lego League elementary school teams.

The robots and players may be smaller, but the excitement and competition is still as intense as it is in the gymnasium with the older kids.  Congratulations to all the FLL teams who competed.

Mentors from the high school FRC team KING TeC #2169 help run the FLL tournament for the elementary school students.

Prior Lake Robotics currently supports more than 350 kids in 5 different robotics programs stretching from kindergarten through the 12th grade.   It's an incredible program.

Our youngest teams are in Junior FLL.  They had the chance to display their creations during the tournament.

High Tech Kids runs the tournaments for the FLL teams.  Congratulations on another great year!

We're pretty lucky to be in a school district that supports robotics as much as ours does.  This is the president of our booster club, the principal of one of our local elementary schools, the principal of the high school, our head coach, the superintendent of schools, and a school board member who all came to the tournament to show their support.  We sure appreciate all that they do for us.

We also had Tony Albright stop by who is a recently re-elected member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and a friend of Prior Lake Robotics.  Thanks, Tony!

Prior Lake Robotics has a tremendous group of supporters who help our program to grow and build STEM skills in hundreds of students. 

We wanted to give a special shout-out to our friends at PTC who have been such great supporters of Prior Lake Robotics over the years.   Thanks, PTC!!