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FIRST Indiana Robotics is getting ready for the upcoming tech challenge season



Greenwood, Indiana – Students in Indiana’s middle and high schools are getting ready for the FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge season.

The FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament was held on Saturday at Center Grove Middle School North in Greenwood, with about 28 teams participating.

FIRST organizes tournaments for students in grades K–12. The Tech Challenge is open to students in grades seven through twelve.

The title of this year’s competition is CENTERSTAGE presented by RTX. The ability to pick up and move pixels—small pieces—across the field is a prerequisite for teams. Depending on how high they can stack the pixels on a board or move them to other areas of the field, players can earn points at different levels.

Chris Osborne is FIRST Indiana’s vice president of programs. According to him, the student’s commitment to the sport is on par with that of student-athletes.

“The students have been working since September to build their own iteratively designed robot,” Osborne said. “You’re going to see a lot of different creations here … Students are able to 3D print and fabricate in their shops to try to come up with a solution to this year’s game.”

Additionally, teams can score extra points if their robots can perform activities like throwing a paper airplane or hanging from some of the bars on the field.

Nat Shaver works as an operator for the Center Grove team “Panic.” Competitions, according to her, can grow very intense.

“It’s honestly kind of nerve-wracking sometimes,” Shaver said. Of course, we’re representing our team, our school, and everything. It’s really cool. You honestly get really up in the moment sometimes, and it takes a lot of focus.”

Students control their robots to do tasks using Java-based programming and Android technology.

Robots must move entirely on their own, without the assistance of human operators, for the first thirty seconds of the competition.

The head programmer for the Avon-based “Purple Roborioles” is Stephen Onochie. He thinks it’s fantastic to watch the activity increase.

“Not everyone knows about robotics and S.T.E.M.,” Onochie said. “Helping our community learn about that. It’s just so exciting.

Children should learn more than just how to compete, according to FIRST Robotics.

The group’s main goals are to teach children leadership, teamwork, communication, and STEAM-related job skills.

These children are essentially operating a business, according to FIRST Indiana President Ashley Robbins.

“They need to brand their teams,” Robbins said. “They need to come up with an identity. They’re working with local corporations to develop sponsorships [and] find people to sustain their programs.”

Visit the non-profit organization’s website to find out the complete schedule of FIRST Indiana Robotics events and volunteer opportunities.