First Tech Challenge (usfirst.org) is a robotics program designed to expose teenagers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through challenging robotic games that requires them to design, prototype, build, test, and program autonomous and driver-operated robots to perform a series of tasks. The program encourages young students to engage in activities that foster well-rounded life capabilities and promote teamwork, creativity, hard work and “gracious-professionalism”.
Polar Vortex Robotics team (9132) started in September 2014 as six eighth graders from Eagan, Lakeville North and Rosemont, Minnesota in the basement of Darren and Nichole Hester’s home. In four months, they built a competition robot, created a team name and logo and started their engineering notebook to document their development journey. The team focuses on building a robust robot, drafting an engineering notebook (documents design ideas, programming details, pictures of their CAD), constructing sensors, outreach with the engineering community and branding with a team site at polarvortex9132.com. Darren Hester says, “The FTC motto, ‘It’s the hardest fun you’ll ever have’, has really resonated with the students.”
The team at Travel Tags, Inc. offer a variety of 1:1 mentorship opportunities, from explanation of lenticular, to development of a business card that applied this science, to individual financial support. The team did a group presentation prior to the Minnesota FTC Stratasys State Championship on February 21st where Polar Vortex placed seventh. Minnesota has 108 registered teams competing in the 2014/15 season, with the top six continuing to the FTC North Super Regional contest from March 26-28th in Des Moines, Iowa. The team has been invited to help organize the Regional Championships and is working to attend the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri in April. This team is currently raising funds via gofundme (gofundme.com/polarvortex9132), selling candy and bagging groceries to support these events.