In my last blog post, I wrote about what FIRST Robotics is, I suggest that you read that post before continuing on with this one. There is so many different programs that form the FIRST community and in that blog post, I explain those different programs from my personal experience. The FIRST community heavily shaped who I am today. You can find that post here.
During my high school years, I was involved in a FIRST Robotics Competition team in my home town. That team is Team 1720, PhyXTGears and it is located at the Muncie MadJax on the corner of Madison and Jackson street in Muncie, Indiana. It was one of the most life-changing opportunities that I have ever had the chance to be a part of. I joined PhyXTGears in 2009 because one of my best friends was a part of the team and convinced me of how fun it would be. I started out on the woodworking and documentation subteams, but I did jump around quite a bit throughout the different subteams. I watched and even tried being in the other subteams such as animation, programming, and mechanical.
I took a break when I began high school at Burris Laboratory School because the transition from homeschooling to public school was a very difficult transition for me. While I was taking a break from the team, in 2015 they made it to the World Championship for their very first time! The year they made it to the World Championship was when the FIRST game was Recycle Rush with their robot, “Not Yet.” PhyXTGears was ranked 13th in the State and finished the World Championship ranked 6th on their field, Newton Division.
During the 2017 build season, the team consisted of 29 students and 14 mentors. This year the game was called STEAMworks. PhyXTGears created a wonderfully crafted robot named “Spitfire”, that was able to shoot all of the Fuel into the Boiler and get a gear onto the airship in the first 15 seconds in Autonomous, shoot into the high goals accurately, run multiple cycles getting gears from one end of the field to the other and onto the airship, and climb the airship fast.
This year the drive team required four students and one mentor (drive coach). One of the mechanical Student Leaders of PhyXTGears created a test about the rules of this year’s game. All of the students in PhyXTGears were required to take this test and then to continue re-taking the test until they passed with a 60%. This was required to make sure that every team member understood the STEAMworks game and rules. The FIRST Judges grab random students from different teams to ask questions, so it is important that every student has a basic understanding of the game and their robot.
Our first competition with Spitfire was the St. Joseph District Event on March 10th – 12th, 2017. I’ve been to many district events over the past 9ish years that I have been a team member of PhyXTGears, so this district event felt no different than any other. This event felt exactly like a sports event, and in a way it is. It’s a sports event for nerdy people, but even if you are not nerdy, you will find the event to be exhilarating. These events last for hours and go on in high school gymnasiums, so if you plan to go to an event it is imperative that you bring a pillow or a bleacher seat to sit on for comfort.
Our second competition with Spitfire was the Perry Meridian District Event on March 23rd – 25th, 2017. This district event was just like the last, exhilarating, lively, and mind-blowing. Everywhere you turn there is something new and exciting going on. Have you ever heard the song Sweet Caroline? That song is a beloved favorite of Indiana FIRST teams, every time that song comes on, the audience livens up and shouts along, “Sweet Caroline, BUM BUM BUM Good times never seemed so good, SO GOOD SO GOOD!” It’s the best and funniest part, because I promise you that if you listen to each individual person more times than not they will be off key, but if you listen to them all off-key at once it sounds great, it livens you up and you just have to join in.
After getting into the Quarterfinals in one of the district events and the Finals in the other district events, we moved our way up to the Indiana State Competition. At that time, we were ranked as 4th in the state. The Indiana State Competition was located in Huntington, Indiana and was on April 6th – 8th, 2017. I had such a wonderful time taking pictures for Indiana FIRST at this event, and felt excited every time a picture of mine was posted. At every event a media student from media subteam of each playing team was allowed to be up close and personal with the playing field to take better pictures of their robot than if they were in the stands. Being up and close with the playing field would fill your energy up with so much adrenaline that you would be bouncing off of the walls. PhyXTGears had ended the Indiana State Competition by being ranked in first place in Indiana!
Throughout all of these events, we were talked about in several newspapers such as The Star Press, Muncie Journal, and the SEGway News! (You can find links to the articles about PhyXTGears during this time period at the bottom of this post.) It was very exciting to see pictures of myself and other team members in the paper. Even if you personally were not in the article, the feeling of knowing that you are a part of the organization that is awesome enough to get into the newspaper is an incredible feeling.
After ranking first in state we had won a spot in the World Championship! The World Championship was located at the Edward Jones Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri and lasted 4 days on April 26th-29th, 2017. The Edward Jones Stadium was held was ginormous and could hold up to 66,965 people!
There was 6 full sized playing fields playing all at once! Each field was named after a different scientist, there was Archimedes, Carson, Curie, Daly, Darwin, and Tesla. During the final round the winning teams would play on the Einstein field. You could hear all kinds of different chants being yelled throughout the stadium, and when teams weren’t on the field, they would chant for other teams! A local church, Hazelwood Baptist Church, was kind enough to let us stay there during our time in St. Louis for a more affordable price.
While being on the Media subteam, we were involved in a competition separate from the robots ran by FedEx. There were four different challenges involved in this competition and it was open to any FIRST team at the World Championship event. The first challenge was the FedEx Drop Box Challenge where we had to go on a scavenger hunt to find a FedEx drop box dressed up as a robot.
The second challenge was Our Scientist Rocks Challenge where we had to create a 25 second or less video explaining why our scientist (Marie Curie) was the best. The third challenge was the Steampunk & Steampower Challenge where we had to solve a math problem about a steam engine and present it on social media in an interesting way. The last challenge was the FedEx: New Heights for Innovation Challenge where we had to solve a physics problem about airplanes, the Boeing 777 Freighter to be more specific.
During the first challenge, we went on a scavenger hunt to find the drop box that had a robot on it. Our team had searched for hours all over the surrounding area and ran into several interesting people along the way. We had asked many different people for help on finding this drop box, such as: strangers on the street, a security guard of a library, an FTC team, an FRC team, and even FedEx employees.
During one of our adventures to find the drop box, we accidently bumped into a large group which at first we ignored and then someone from our team noticed that the large group was surrounding one of the co-founders, Woodie Flowers! We stuck around and was able to grab a picture with him, it brought the same feelings as meeting a rockstar! After getting that amazing picture, we set back off to find the dropbox, but it wasn’t until we had asked FRC team 2619 for help that we were able to locate the dropbox. Our team agreed that this help was showing coopertition at it’s finest and we made sure recognize them in our submission.
Although we did not make it to the last playing field, Einstein, we had a very fun and exciting time experiencing the World Championship and ranking in first place in our State. Every event that lead up to it was lively and exciting, every win brought more excitement. I am so grateful to have ended my Senior year with a bang by going to the World Championship event. There was so much going on everywhere and it was all beyond interesting to see. If you aren’t involved in a FIRST team, I extremely recommend that you hurry up and join one. It is the experience of a lifetime, it helps keep kids out of trouble, it opens up so many opportunities for you, and it also looks amazing on job and college applications.
Hey there, my name is Ashley Martin! From several different class projects, this website has turned into a wonderful e-portfolio for myself and also a way to express my opinions on different topics, so check it all out and leave some comments!