Thursday February 23, 2017
The Green Mountain Gears (GMG) joined over thirty teams at the First Technology Challenge (FTC) Vermont State FTC Championships held February 11 at Essex High School. Teams from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island participated in the challenge which requires students to build, program, and operate an android based robot using cellphones and Xbox controllers. GMG coach Paul Fitzgerald said, “The team made significant gains toward their long term goals during this competition when they presented completed Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings of their sub-assemblies and scored points in two out of five rounds.”
This year’s GMG team includes Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School students Luke Fitzgerald, Andrew Kim, and Kenny Chamberlain, along with Rice student Ethan Behr and Hinesburg Community School student Myles Peterson. According to Fitzgerald, this was the best showing yet for the young team. He reports, “They demonstrated ingenuity by building their robot frame from wood bars that were ripped from a two by four. The frame was held together by Kreg screws and was light, strong, and, most importantly, about 100 times less costly than their competition. The team presented CAD drawings and programming in Java for all of their sub-assemblies: chassis, sweeper and catapult.”
Founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, FTC is designed for students grades seven to 12. The “first” in the organization’s name is an acronym meaning “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, the nonprofit group describes themselves as “more than robots,” and says, “Participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.”
The GMG team is part of the nonprofit Teams of Innovative Problem Solvers (TIPS), which is based in South Burlington. Currently, they are seeking sponsors and donations to support teams of Vermont students in problem solving competitions, such as FTC and Odyssey of the Mind.
In the meantime, mentoring is next on their agenda. According to Fitzgerald, GMG team members are planning to mentor junior First Lego League teams, kindergartners through second grade, this spring through a Lego Foundation Grant, which was awarded to TIPS in October. Fitzgerald said, “TIPS aims to develop these teams at three sites, including Orchard School. The team plans to learn to navigate using the image targets and the Vuforia [augmented reality platform] plug-in during the autonomous phase of the competition. The team also hopes to learn to braze over the summer to assemble custom frames and sub-assembly mounts.”