KOKOMO, Ind. — Robots created by students from 21 Indiana schools competed for objects on a simulated planet, vying for the inaugural Rover League Championship at Indiana University Kokomo.
Approximately 200 students, grades 7-12, designed, built, programmed, and operated robots to compete in the Rover Ruckus simulated planet exploration as part of the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). Nearly 100 volunteers, including IU Kokomo faculty, staff, and students, made the first-ever event possible.
Patrick Motl, associate dean of the School of Sciences, said the tournament provides an opportunity for the students to show their technical skills, and also to experience a college environment.
“It was great to see the competition. There were some really amazing machines they put together, with really clever designs,” he said. “It’s good for their skill development to participate in a competition like this. It’s good for our campus to partner with organizations like FIRST to encourage students inclined towards STEM fields.”
Andy Baker, president of AndyMark, a Kokomo business that develops, manufactures, and distributes mechanical and electrical parts for the mobile and competitive robotics market, was volunteer coordinator and advisor for the event. He was pleased with the community response to help — even though many had no previous experience in robotics.
“The main thing that impressed me was the effort and willingness for all of the new volunteers to do whatever they needed to do in their roles,” Baker said. “From judges who previously did not know about FIRST, to field managers who had no prior idea how these matches operated, they all took on the challenge, learned quickly, and provided a well-run event.”
It also showcased IU Kokomo, providing the students an opportunity to explore degrees available on campus in the sciences and other fields.
“The more frequently we can get people on campus, that grows our reputation,” said Motl. “It gives the students a thought in the back of their minds that this is a place they could come and belong at some point, and earn the degree that will propel them into their desired careers.”
FIRST Robotics appreciates the opportunity to have a competition in Kokomo, said Lori Hall, affiliate partner for FTC Indiana.
“Together, our group and the Kokomo community created a wonderful, inspiring competition for these students,” she said, adding that she also values the opportunity to expose the students to a college campus. Some of them have told her they are nervous about going to college in the future, and seeing a campus and meeting students encourages them.
“There were a lot of IU Kokomo students there, and those students are great role models,” she said. “Our students look at the college students, who are just a few years older, and say, ‘I’m going to be like that person in a few years. I can do that.’”
During the competition, teams joined forces in alliances to compete for points on the surface of a simulated planet, during three-minute rounds. Robots earned points by descending from a lander, gathering minerals from a crater, sorting and scoring them into the cargo hold of the lander, and navigating specific parts of the landing field, among other tasks.
The winning alliance included Full Steam Ahead, from Elkhart, XLR8, from Granger, and the Space Cadets, from Hobart. They competed in the finals against the alliance of Genesis, Lafayette; and TOBOR and Radical Change, both from Crawfordsville.
Other award winners included:
- Promote Award: Space Cadets, first place
- Control Award: Genesis, first; Fire Wires, Granger, second; Full Steam Ahead, third
- Motivate Award: Beta Bots, Mishawaka, first; Cville-Ized Botman, Crawfordsville, second; Space Cadets, third
- Design Award: Fire Wires, first; TOBOR, second; Full Steam Ahead, third
- Collins Aerospace Innovate Award: CyberDevils, West Lafayette, first; Circuit Breakers, Wallace, second; North Robotics, Crawfordsville, third
- Connect Award: TOBOR, first; Circuit Breakers, second; XLR8, third
- Think Award: Cville-Ized Botman, first; B1naryBOts, Mishawaka, second; Genesis, third
- Inspire Award: Space Cadets, first; Beta Bots, second; Fire Wires, third
Sponsors for the event included IU Kokomo, Aptiv, Qualcomm, PTC, Rockwell Collins, AndyMark, Indiana FIRST, and FIRST Tech Challenge Indiana.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.