It’s been a busy fall for the Spence Light Sabers, who spent the first few weeks of school designing and building a robot from scratch for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), an international robotics competition where students are “challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.” The Spence robotics team’s preparation paid off, as their robot’s exceptional performance at their first competition this school year propelled them to a second-place win in competition with 28 teams.
The Spence Light Sabers also received a first-place award for the design of their robot, and are one of eight teams that will advance to the next level of FTC competitions this February. The team of six is led by captain Georgia K. ’20, along with, Sophie S. ’22, Alyssa D. ’22, Jannah E. ’23, Ushrat A. ’23 and Charlotte S. ’24.
According to Georgia, FTC competition challenges consist of both autonomous and driver-controlled periods. During the autonomous period, their robot has to perform a series of tasks on its own, based on code that the team programs in advance. For the driver-controlled period, the team operates their robot using controls, as the robot works to pick up items and place them in designated spots along the track.
With one round of competitions down, the team is already busy preparing for their next one. Georgia noted that they are focusing on developing code so that their robot can perform more advanced tasks during the autonomous portions of the challenge. They also have plans to refine the design of their robot, including adding sensors, which will help the robot tell the difference between specific items it needs to pick up and place elsewhere.
Georgia added that the team sets up half-fields to run practice sessions with their robot, and they attend robotics scrimmages, where they partner with other teams to get ready for upcoming competitions. “It’s very collaborative,” Georgia explained, noting that a key focus of the competition involves alliances, where the teams from each school must work together to complete challenges. “You want everybody to succeed,” she commented, noting that teams help each other with coding, lending each other parts and more.
Georgia’s teammates shared her enthusiasm and excitement. “I have learned so much from the challenges we have encountered and worked together to resolve,” Ushrat emphasized.
“It is so amazing to see how a little brainstorming, teamwork, coding and building can produce such wonderful results,” Sophie added.
Georgia noted that her coursework at Spence has supported her work on the robotics team and vice versa. “I have learned so much from helping with our School’s team and have really appreciated getting to do hands-on engineering work along with STEM classes that I take.”