University of Scranton Hosts FIRST Tech Challenge® EAST Super-Regional Robotics Competition

Mar 10, 2015

Imagine a cross between a science fair and a tournament-style athletic contest, with remote-controlled robots injecting extra electricity.

Welcome to “Sport for the Mind,” a competitive arena for the young and intellectual complete with hundreds of plastic balls.

From March 19-21, The University of Scranton will play host to the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics (FTC) EAST Super-Regional Championship, where the top 72 FTC teams from the eastern region of the country will compete in a unique and fun robotics challenge. Over 800 teams competed at more than 50 Qualifying and Championship Tournaments taking place in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia during the 2014-2015 FTC season to advance to this top regional tier of the program.

Pennsylvania FIRST Robotics, the PA FTC Affiliate Partner, is the host organizer for this championship event sponsored by Rockwell–Collins and the Center for Energy Workforce Development.

FIRST Tech Challenge is an international competition for seventh- through 12th-graders. FIRST® “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” is a New Hampshire-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The objective is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

“The students involved have great fun as they engage their specially designed robots against one another in a sports themed game of goals and strategy,” said Tom Zawislak, chair, Pennsylvania FIRST Robotics and FTC PA Program Affiliate Partner. “Basically they learn that STEM equals FUN.”

This year’s competition game is called Cascade Effect, and each round will be played among four randomly selected teams, with two teams forming one alliance. Alliances can change quickly, however, meaning an alliance partner from one match might be an opponent in another.

Each team will contain two driver-operators, a coach and a Wi-Fi-enabled robot, some of which will have the ability to move autonomously with sensors. The robot initially must fit inside an 18-inch cube but can grow after a match begins. On a 12 feet by 12 feet playing field, with a foam tile floor and low perimeters, the robots will aim to place up to 160 plastic balls of various sizes into a series of rolling goals, 30, 60 and 90 centimeters high. Point values increase with the height of the goals. Points will also be achieved for placing balls into a center field structure, which will rotate to one of three random positions. Beacons on each side of the structure will help guide the robots while in autonomous mode.

The field will also have alliance-specific ramps and parking zones, and teams will use their previously programmed robots to move their rolling goals into the parking zones. Points will be lost if goals tip over.

The public, which can view the three-day competition for free, can expect creative team names – Some Disassembly Required from Maryland or Rhode Rage from Rhode Island, for example – as well as decorated pit areas, given the nature of the competition also encourages imagination.

The East Super Regional Championship events will take place inside the John Long Center and the Byron Recreational Complex on campus. Teams and volunteers will check in on Thursday, March 19, with judging and inspections taking place from 1 until 6 p.m. and pits closing at 7 p.m. The pits will open again at 7 a.m. Friday, March 20, and opening ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m. Qualification matches will follow until noon and again from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Pits will reopen at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, March 21, with qualification matches set for 8:30 to 10 a.m. and division semifinals from 10:45 a.m.-noon. Division finals will run from 1 to 2 p.m. with the final taking place from 2 to 3 p.m. Closing ceremonies will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Other cities hosting Super Regional competitions are: San Antonio, Texas; Oakland, California; and Des Moines, Iowa. Scranton and the other locations were selected as hosts based on timing, accessibility, safety, local support and resources to execute a strong event.

Twenty (20) teams are expected to advance from the Scranton competition to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship being held April 22-25 in St. Louis, Missouri. To learn more about US FIRST Robotics and all of the associated programs please visit


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