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Report on FIRST Tech Challenge
December 2018, News


FIRST Tech Challenge World Festival April 2018

South Africa was represented at the World Festival in Houston by volunteers Paul Stapelberg and Tshwane University of Technology’s Johannes de Vries. Stapelberg volunteered as head judge robot design, while de Vries volunteered as score tracker for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), as well as judge for FIRST Lego League Junior (FLL Jr.), to test the new judging system.

Team Fifth Order competing at the World Festival.
Team Fifth Order competing at the World Festival.

Team Fifth Order represented South Africa as participants. They performed well, but did not pick up any awards. The team did however network extensively with other teams and managed to secure an FTC Startup Guide for new teams. This is an online resource that is distributed to new teams, now used as the basis for team training hosted at TUT. The festival also provided an opportunity to network with FTC parts suppliers, which resulted in new robot controllers being offered at a reduced rate to support South Africa Teams in the migration to more robust and integrated motor controllers.

FIRST Community Conference June 2018

The FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Lego League and FIRST Lego League Junior conferences were hosted as a combined Partners Conference in Orlando, Florida. Attendance by affiliate partners was compulsory as the conference served as the platform for the new season rollout, robot game rule changes, robot game launch and new product introduction.

Conference presentation: de Vries, one of only a few partners to manage FTC from within a university, was a presenter at one of the conference sessions. Plenty of questions were asked and discussed at the well-attended session, where it became clear that university policies are often a burden for FIRST Partners.

Conference sessions: Some interesting sessions were attended including: How to approach schools wanting to start FIRST programmes; Training FTC judges; Robotics in the Australian Outback; and Fundraising and approaching potential sponsors for FIRST programmes.

FIRST Tech Challenge season launch

The Rover Ruckus season launch, hosted at Ryonic Robotics’ premises, generated much interest and excitement. Ryonic Robotics sponsored two new robot controllers in a lucky draw for teams that attended. These controllers can be used in conjunction with the previous ones, but are more robust and user friendly.

FIRST Tech Challenge equipment

Ten FTC Starter sets have been imported for new teams that would like to participate in the future. Two new teams have already joined with potentially three more new entrants for this season. The organisers are actively contacting schools to encourage more FTC teams. A half day training session was also hosted at TUT, which focused on coaching an FTC Team, especially with regards to team management, business plans and fundraising. Training was based on a guide for new FTC teams that is available online www.ftcguidebook.com

FIRST Lego League South African National Championship 2018

SAP as the main program donor, in association with Sci-Bono Discovery Centre and Tshwane University of Technology, invite all interested parties to attend the FIRST Lego League Gauteng South Regional competition.

Date: 30 Nov – 1 Dec

Venue: Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Miriam Makeba Street, Newtown, Johannesburg

Programme: Friday 30 Nov

• 10:00 Team registration and pit area setup.

• All judging, practice rounds and Robot Game Round 1.

• 18:30 Closure for the day.

Programme: Saturday 1 Dec

• 08:00 Venue open.

• Judging call backs and Robot Game Rounds 2 and 3.

• Alliance Game.

• 15:00 Tournament closure.

For more information contact Johannes de Vries, Tshwane University of Technology, +27 83 679 2015, devriesj@tut.ac.za, www.firstsa.org


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