Young Sock Monkeys Host FTC Robot Challenge

Oskaloosa Sock Monkeys prepare their robot on Thursday for FTC league action at Penn Central Mall.

Oskaloosa Sock Monkeys prepare their robot on Thursday for FTC league action at Penn Central Mall.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Problem-solving, competing while sharing and being professional are just part of what goes into making the most of a league meet for the Oskaloosa Sock Monkeys FTC 4443.

FTC or First Tech Challenge is a league that inspires and challenges students in grades 7 to 12 to design, build, program, and operate their robots to complete tasks. Those tasks are determined at the beginning of the year, and the team then designs their robot to complete them.

The teams then compete at league meets for head-to-head competition. Your competitor one round may be your partner the next round.

Oskaloosa played host on Thursday evening, and the Oskaloosa Sock Monkeys were the host team at Penn Central Mall center court.

Madeline Keough, the official press spokesperson for the Sock Monkeys, said this year’s team has many more freshmen than past years. “It’s been quite a change.”

“We don’t have any seniors on the team this year, and we didn’t last year either,” added Keough.

The young team had to tackle the task of designing and building a robot to score points. That plan on how to achieve those goals started with a brainstorming session early on in the year explained Keough. “After we got all the ideas out there and written down somewhere, we go back through and think about which ones seem like they would work the best or most efficiently, and then we build prototypes of those different ideas.”

The team then picks the prototype that works most efficient and accurate, which is then installed onto the robot.

Keough said this year’s robot has a grabber that will be able to grab two of the cubes in an attempt to score points in the arena. A second grabber on the robot is used to score a different object, and then extend that object beyond the arena wall to the scoring zone.

Keough said that different teams took on the challenge in many different ways. Some used grabbers like Oskaloosa’s Sock Monkeys, while others used a type of conveyor belt to achieve the goal.

Those competitors in one round may be your partner the next round. Keough said that large amounts of time are spent working with others to make sure everyone is working to the “best of your ability.”

Keough said that there are little secrets in FTC as the league is “all about working together, and bringing people together.”

There are similar programs for younger people than those involved in FTC, and Lego League is one of those. Keough thinks that the program is “unlike any other” and it encourages young people while building STEM skills “and teaches kids and teenagers to be graciously professional.”

“You are a professional,” added Keough. “You are trying hard to do your best, but you’re being gracious about it, so you’re not being a sore loser or a sore winner.”

Steve Dixon, the team advisor, said that the different tasks assigned each year help participants to build skills from year-to-year. “Because you’re challenged with new technology to do a different task.”

With such a young team, Dixon says that there have been challenges along the way, and the team is building as it grows and gains knowledge.

The teams offer more to participants than just writing code, or building the robot. Team members like Keough can also take on the role of spokesperson, or another may take on the website development. “Everything is there,” said Dixon. “The fundraising, the outreach, the communication with other teams, collaborating with other businesses. All the interaction is all there. That’s a life skill.”

Many of the items used in FTC are real world, like the coding language, and helps the participants as they move on into the real world, or to higher education. “They’ve at least seen it and have an idea how it works. It’s a huge step up,” added Dixon.

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Posted by on Jan 5 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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