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Judging the FTC Qualifier in Andover, MA

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Judging the FTC Qualifier in Andover, MA

http://evan-and-lauren-a.blogspot.com/2014/01/11214-first-block-party-ftc-qualifier.htmlI had the joy of being a judge at the latest FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge Qualifier at Andover HS.  My company PTC sponsors the FIRST to inspire the Engineers of the Future.  This is a competition for students to build a robot and compete in many categories.  You can see previous games in my past posts here.  My son loves robots and when I brought him in to the PTC Family Picnic he loved controlling the robots.  Evan and Lauren were lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at the teams practicing in the pits with having a Mom as a judge.

As the judges we could award teams for Innovation of Design, Design aspects, Motivation, Connection with the community, Think - for their Engineering Notebook, and Inspire as a combination award of who placed highly and did well in matches.  Here were our judging volunteers.

The competition started with opening ceremonies with a very excited crowd of students and family ready to see their team compete.  It felt like a sporting event and the enthusiasm was infectious.
We had some front row seats right next to the ring to see the robots in action.
Vision for FIRST: "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." - Dean Kamen, Founder 
This year's competition was called Block Party.  The full game description is here but the highlights are that teams need to put blocks in to containers with end game points at the end if the robot can hang from a bar and make a flag go up. 
Here you can see a couple hanging which was really cool to watch.

The first 30 seconds is done autonomously and then the last 2 minutes is done by controlling the robots.  There is also extra points for lifting up another robot.
I was on the team of 3 judges to go in to the pits and interview each of the teams and see their robots up close.  It was so nice to see so many young people with a true excitement for the engineering design process. 
It was also wonderful seeing so many women involved.  Being one of 3 women in my Aerospace Engineering classes I knew what it was like being in the minority in an Engineering field.  The skills these students are learning at such a young age are phenomenal.
Many of the teams were sponsored by PTC.  I have been with PTC for over 15 years so this is always exciting for me to see our logo proudly displayed.
I loved seeing the enthusiasm for the game.  Seeing the teams with matching team shirts and hearing shouts from the crowd for their school's team was so fun.  There were so many extraordinary teams and it was so hard to decide who should win.
PTC is a Strategic Partner of FIRST and provides donated software and nearly a million dollars of funding in support of the program.  They donate the most advanced CAD (Creo) and Collaboration (Windchill) software to all FTC and FRC teams.  Here is a video that PTC put together around FIRST.
I hope my little ones are inspired to become the engineers of the future and get involved with FIRST.

Find them online:  http://www.usfirst.org/
Twitter:  @firstweets
Disclosure:  No compensation was received for judging, this is an activity I volunteer at as I think it is a wonderful endeavor.