Learning and competing at the FIRST Tech Challenge tournament


Sydney Kim '20

Sacred Heart Greenwich students competed at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Central Connecticut Qualifier tournament February 8.

Members of the Sacred Heart Greenwich Robotics Team competed at the For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge (FTC) Central Connecticut Qualifier tournament at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut, February 8.  One of four all-girls teams at the event, Sacred Heart placed twenty-third out of 25 competitors, but senior co-captains Elisa Howard and Sydney Kim hope to use this experience to strengthen the robotics program.

Sacred Heart opens the Robotics Team to seventh through twelfth graders.  In addition to Elisa and Sydney, the team consists of seventh-grader Moira Marangi, eighth-grader Avery Kim, freshman Kristin Morrow, and sophomore Angélique Wheeler.  Mrs. Anne Uglum, Upper School Math and Science Teacher, and Mrs. Janelle O’Neill, Upper School Math Teacher and Chair of Upper School Math and Computer Science Department, mentor the students.  Elisa, Sydney, and Avery attended the competition February 8. 

The Robotics Team competes in the FTC, one of four divisions of robotics competitions within FIRST, a non-profit science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) organization.  Each year, FTC releases a challenge in which students must design, build, program, and operate robots, according to firstinspires.org.  From December through February each year, these robots face other robots in an alliance format competition at tournaments. 

Avery Kim ’24, Mr. Hoa Ton-That, team mentor of the Armored Artemises from Glastonbury, Connecticut, Sydney Kim ’20, and Elisa Howard ’20 prepare their robot for competition.  Sydney Kim ’20

From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Central Connecticut Qualifier hosted multiple matches amongst competing robots.  Each match contained four teams, all of which FIRST paired randomly.  Two teams represented the blue alliance, while the other two teams represented the red alliance.  The FIRST Tech Challenge allows each team to have up to two driver operators, a coach, a human player, and a robot, according to firstinspires.org.

Elisa feels that experience working with other teams at the tournament will help the Sacred Heart team improve in the future.

During the competition, the robotics team was able to meet and work with other groups.  While other teams helped assist in the maintenance of our robot, they provided us with insights on how to develop an even more successful team,” Elisa said.  “As a captain, I will continue to reach out to not only other students but teams in the nearby area.  As we continue to seek more interest, we hope that more students may take advantage of the program of science, technology, innovation, and leadership.”

Before each individual match began, the two randomly-paired teams conferred and organized a plan.  Referees judged the matches on a variety of criteria, including parking the robot over a midfield line, moving blocks, and building towers, according to firstinspires.org

Despite a setback early in the tournament, Elisa, Sydney, and Avery worked together to alter their robot and prepare it for its matches later in the day. 

“In the first match of the competition, our robot had a technical malfunction,” Elisa said.  “Between matches, the team showed problem-solving abilities, as we were able to re-engineer our robot before the next competition through creative approaches to rather unexpected issues.”

Eight of the teams at the February 8 qualifier advanced to the Connecticut FTC State Championship.  This event will host 26 teams at Windsor High School in Windsor, Connecticut February 22 to determine the champion of the FTC competition. 

Elisa believes that this competition showcased the growing talent of the robotics program. 

“As the robotics program started last year, the competition showcased our team’s ability to not only develop an innovative robot but to compete against larger and more thoroughly established teams,” Elisa said.  “This year, we have a strongly motivated team.  Each team member has a lot to contribute and brings tremendous enthusiasm.  I always look forward to our Wednesday meetings, and I am excited to see what our team can accomplish in the future.”

Featured Image by Sydney Kim ’20