by Peter Elliott

From March 15-17, the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy will be hosting the 30th annual FIRST Robotics Qualifying Tournament. Featuring over 30 local teams of robotics, the qualifying tournament is one of the largest robotics tournaments in the city of Philadelphia. For this competition, the robotics teams will be challenged in “Destination: Deep Space.” This event was created by FIRST in cooperation with the Boeing company.

In “Destination: Deep Space,” players compete in a 3v3 robotics match, using robots which their teams designed. The goal of the challenge is for teams to use their robots to place panels and load cargo into their spaceship, which earns the team points. In the first part of the match, the teams must rely on the vision of their robots to simulate a sandstorm in space. Players must use their teamwork to collect the most points; the team with the most points by the end of the match wins.

The host’s team, the SCH Vulcan Robotics, also known as Team 1218, is also be competing in the event. The team was founded in 2003 and has won numerous robotics competitions over the years. Team 1218 has won district events in Westtown, Hatboro-Horsham and Chestnut Hill, and have made appearances in regional championships in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., respectively.

According to the Blue Alliance, a website which acts as a database for FIRST competitions, Team 1218 is currently ranked 15th out of 132 teams in the FIRST Mid- Atlantic district, with a record of 7-6-1 in the 2019 season.

The qualifying tournament will act as a fundraiser for SCH Vulcan Robotics. Competitors and visitors alike can enjoy great food as they experience technology by these youth, all while experiencing the competitive matches between the teams.

FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was originally founded by Dean Kamen in 1989 to spur interest in the science of robotics and other technology for younger generations. The program also hopes to increase youth interest and engagement in STEM-related fields.

“FIRST is more than robotics,” Kamen said. “The robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. Kids often come in not knowing what to expect – of the program nor themselves. They leave, even after the first season, with a vision, with confidence and with a sense that they can create their own future.”

For more information on how to volunteer for the robotics tournament or to donate food for the event, visit sch.org. For a video demonstration of the challenge, visit the FIRST Robotics Competition YouTube channel, which will also have a playlist of the matches from the qualifying tournament after the competition has concluded.

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