An Emotional Championship at Home

Parker Hosts FTC Robotics League Championship


Photo credit: Photo courtesy of FTC Team 3507 Robotheosis.

Parker’s FTC robotics teams pose together. 9410 shows off their Control Award and 3507 displays their 1st Place Design Award. Photo courtesy of FTC Team 3507 Robotheosis.

The school is quiet except for the sound of a projector being set up and a robot being tinkered on diligently in the Big Gym. Until 10 p.m. on Friday, February 12, several members of the Parker Robotics teams were at school to prepare for the FIRST Tech Challenge League Championship Tournament for the Chicago North division.

The tournament would be the culmination of months of hard work by high school robotics teams across Chicago. Sixteen teams faced off to determine which teams would be moving on to the State Championship. Parker usually hosts the Chicago North Championship Tournament primarily because of their facilities, however, the tournament was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

“FIRST is a global robotics community preparing young people for the future,” Master of Ceremonies Ryan Kamphuis said at the opening ceremony. FIRST is a nonprofit which comprises several programs that offer Science, Tech, Engineering, Math (STEM) education and outreach.

FIRST Tech Challenge is an international competition that has over 6,000 member teams across 25 countries. Two of those teams are Parker’s “Frank’s Garage” freshman team and “Robotheosis” upperclassman team. Their team numbers are 3507 and 9410 respectively.

Earlier in the season, three meets took place in which Parker teams found great success. Frank’s Garage entered the championship tournaments at second place in the Chicago North region behind Latin School of Chicago’s “Animatores Romani.” Robotheosis was in third place.

The tournament day began for Parker team members at 6:30 a.m. to make final adjustments to the robot and final arrangements for the event. Other teams then began to roll in and find their stations in the Small Gym. The stations are called “pits” which serve as the team’s home base for the day to set up their presentation boards and work on their robots.

Member of the RoboTitans and junior at Chicago Math and Science Academy Andrew Green discussed the work that goes into preparing a robot for competition in the pits. “Just by the nature of it being an engineering thing, you never really stop working on it,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve.”

A field consists of multiple components including areas that the robots must drive into, obstacles they must drive over, places where they must put objects and even a spinning wheel to retrieve rubber ducks from. Teams had access to an extra game field for robot testing and practice. The official game field was in the Big Gym.

The game and the field change every year and are announced in September. This year’s theme was Freight Frenzy, which focused on the movement of blocks into hubs and/or depots. Freight Frenzy is played with two alliances, red and blue, which each consist of two teams.

The qualifying matches began at 11 a.m. which would determine the final bracket for the tournament. Robotheosis won eight and tied one of their 10 games and Frank’s Garage won eight of their 10 games.

These results as well as all results for the season qualified Frank’s Garage for the semifinals and they then advanced to the finals where they teamed up with Robotheosis. Both Parker teams competed together in a three-round matchup against an alliance with Animatores Romani and Lincoln Park High School’s “Roarbotics.”

“All I can do is hope that things go well,” sophomore and Robotheosis member Grant Koh said. Koh described the final round of the tournament as “exciting” and “nerve wracking.” After losing the first round and then winning the second round, the finals ended in defeat for the Parker alliance.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., presentations were given by each team to the judges. There were roughly 10 judges who had the responsibility of learning about each team’s process and outreach and then making decisions about awards, some of which determine which teams move on to the State Championship. 

These awards were announced in the closing ceremony. Franks Garage earned first place for the “Control Award” and second place for the “Design Award.” Robotheosis earned first place for the “Design Award” and second place for the “Think Award.”

A week later, Frank’s Garage was notified that they would move on to the State Championships thanks to a situation with another league that allowed for one more team to advance. The State Championship occured at Elgin Community College on Saturday, March 12. Frank’s Garage won three games, lost two games and received the “Rookie Sensation Award.” 

Parker robotics students explained that there is an equity aspect to the FIRST Tech Challenge due to the correlation between the funding for the robots and the advancement of the robot and the successfulness of the team. 

Because of these discrepancies, the Parker teams have made efforts to share their resources with other teams. For example, Parker gave competing schools access to 3D Printers which are crucial to fabricating specific robot pieces.

The Parker robotics teams have now come to the end of their seasons. “While it obviously would’ve been nice to have gone a bit farther, I still had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit,” Robotheosis member Grant Koh said. “I’m of course excited to work with this pretty clearly talented group of freshmen next year.”