ALEXANDRIA, VA-On Jan. 6, Titan Robotics kicked off their tenth season at Beverley Hills Community United Methodist Church. Undeterred by the wet weather, students, alumnus, mentors, and parents attended the event, one of the hundreds held around the world to learn about this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition dubbed Crescendo.
This season, 3,500 teams worldwide will compete for a chance to win local, regional, and global titles in the FIRST Robotics Competition, according to FIRST. The international organization reveals the challenge, or game, to the world in a livestream event on the first Saturday in January every year.
This year’s debut drew about 40 Alexandria City High School Titan Robotics students, mentors, and parents to the Beverly Hills church to learn about this year’s challenge. At exactly noon, the challenge was revealed in a livestream broadcast. Titan Robotics students, with the support of their mentors, have eight weeks to design, manufacture, build, and program a robot to complete this year’s challenge. Teams must design a robot capable of moving foam rings across a field the width of a full-size basketball court, shooting them into goals and other locations before time runs out. In the final seconds of each match, robots will have to hoisting themselves onto, and balance on, a slacked chain that hangs between two posts. As soon as the video describing the game finished, the students started strategizing. Minutes later, a box arrived, a kit with examples of the foam rings and other items the team will need to build their robot and prepare for the competition.
Teams plan and practice individually or collaboratively, and then at the tournaments, teams compete in random alliances with other teams for qualification matches. Each match sets three teams against three others. For qualification matches, teams often end up playing against their former alliance partners. As the tournament progresses, 30 teams form eight alliances to move from qualification matches to the elimination rounds.
This year, Titan Robotics is celebrating 10 years of Innovation. Over the past decade, the team has become a STEAM resource and fixture in Alexandria City, starting and nurturing 21 FIRST LEGO League teams at schools in Alexandria. Titan Robotics supports these teams by providing funding and student mentors to promote a pipeline of STEAM education throughout elementary, middle, and high school. For the past 7 years, Titan Robotics students have also run summer camps teaching various STEAM for students grades K-8 in a fun & interactive setting. Last year, the team partnered with AIM-AHEAD, an NIH grant organization, to offer a Health Sciences camp and to make middle school camps free of charge to families.
While the team prepares a robot for competition, some students also create a presentation detailing all of the ways Titan Robotics contributes to our community. This is presented to a panel of judges for a chance to win the FIRST Impact Award. This is the most prestigious award in FIRST Robotics and it is presented to teams who have demonstrated a continued impact on their communities, spreading STEAM and robotics, and modeling FIRST values. Titan Robotics has won this coveted award at the local and regional levels for the past two seasons. If successful this year, the team will once again head to FIRST Championships in Houston, TX in April to compete with a select group of teams for the global title.
During the livestream broadcast that revealed this year’s challenge, FIRST Robotics Founder Dean Kamen explained that he built the program to inspire students, but has found that the kids inspire him. “They give me hope,” he said of the youth. “If we can keep them moving in the right direction, keep them communicating and cooperating with each other, then maybe the world is going to be a better place.”
Titan Robotics will be competing in their first District Competition from March 2-3 at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, VA. They will then compete in a second District Competition from March 23-24 at Meridian High School in Falls Church, VA.
About Titan Robotics
Titan Robotics is a student-led organization founded in 2014. The team’s main goal is to spread awareness of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) to the local community by competing every year in the FIRST Robotics Competition and participating in numerous STEAM outreach events.
Learn more on the Titan Robotics website: https://frc5587.org.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST sponsors annual competitions for student teams across all ages to test the robots they build around a unique challenge. FIRST announces the high school challenge in early January and teams compete in early March with their robots. FIRST competitions culminate with a world competition event in Houston in April.