Carmel Valley: Canyon Crest Academy's rookie robotics team division champs at international competition

De-Evolution team members Tristan Murphy, Ryan Lee, Nic Stone, Maia Kuspa, Annabelle Mercer, Noah Sutton-Smolin and Yousuf Soliman.
De-Evolution team members Tristan Murphy, Ryan Lee, Nic Stone, Maia Kuspa, Annabelle Mercer, Noah Sutton-Smolin and Yousuf Soliman.

Canyon Crest Academy’s rookie robotics team, de.evolution, took first place in its division and second place overall in the worldwide FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics competition held this past weekend in St. Louis.

Beginning last fall, 1,600 teams of 10 members each from around the world competed in regional tournaments, for an invitation to the international competition. Of those 1,600 teams, 128 winning teams were invited to compete in St. Louis – among them de.evolution, which won first place in its first regional competition in December in Los Angeles.

At the international tournament, the 128 teams (representing 1,280 students) were divided into two divisions of 64 teams each. Two days of qualifying matches eliminated all but four teams from each division. The four teams then played against one another, and de.evolution won its division handily with a spunky little robot, innovative programming and nimble maneuverability.

With 11 team members in ninth and 10th grades, de.evolution was formed just this year and was classified as a rookie team. The Canyon Crest students competed head-to-head against older teams with more experience that had been together for years.

The FTC game this year was developed with input from professional robotics designers, engineers and sensor experts from across the country. The game – called “Get Over It!” – is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot square field, with two periods of play. The first period, when teams program their robots to move independently, is called an “autonomous” period, which lasts 40 seconds. The second period is driver-controlled and last two minutes. The robots are about 18 inches all around and resemble mini, open-air tanks.

The object of the game is to move robots to baton dispensers positioned around the field, retrieve the batons which are made of six-inch PVC tubes, and place the batons into stationary and rolling goals. Bridges, cliffs and a “mountain” challenge the robots to “get over” the obstacles to reach their goal. Points are awarded for balancing on the bridges and for various other moves, depending upon difficulty.

The robotics kit consisted of 11 motors, nine sensors, two game controllers, wireless communications and metal gears, and all required hardware building materials. Each team designed and built a uniquely constructed robot, resulting in competitions with no two robots alike.

Objectives were to construct a mechanism to grasp and place batons, to write software to enable the robot to move autonomously and be controlled by a driver, and to master sensor use, mechanical challenges, infrared tracking, magnet seeking, line following, balancing, withstanding impact, and traversing over bridges, cliffs and other obstacles.

The four-day competition, held April 27-30, included an evening concert by the Black-Eyed Peas and featured who gave robotics some star power with words of encouragement for the thousands of students in the audience to continue their interest in science, engineering and technology.

Held at the 550,000-square-foot America’s Center and Edward Jones Dome convention center complex in St. Louis, FIRST’s international gathering brought together 11,064 students from 29 countries, 5,247 mentors and coaches, 700 event volunteers including judges and referees – and 561 robots of various shapes, sizes and abilities.

Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989. A non-profit organization, FIRST [] sponsors robotic competitions globally to motivate young students to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.

FIRST offers four competitions: the Junior FIRST LEGO League for students ages 6 to 9, FIRST LEGO League for students ages 9 to 14, and two high school competitions – FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

FTC, according to FIRST, offers students the chance to design, build and program robots; get hands-on programming and rapid-prototyping experience; apply real-world math and science concepts; document the engineering process; develop problem-solving, organizational and team-building skills; learn cooperation and professionalism; and qualify for $10 million in college scholarship money.

Assessments by experts have concluded that robotics participants develop an increased understanding of basic science principles, the engineering design process, research, planning, collaboration, mentorship, teamwork, and how technology can be used to solve real-world problems.

Canyon Crest Academy is one of four comprehensive high schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District.



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