University of Maryland Extension

Horizons 4-H Club's FIRST Tech Challenge Teams are Off to Worlds!

Horizons 4-H Robotics Program of Howard County Maryland is thrilled to have both of our FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams progressing to the FTC World Championship being held in St. Louis, MO on April 22-25, 2015.  Only 128 out of the approximately 4,500 FTC teams across the globe have the honor to compete at the FTC World Championship.

Our teams are:

  • Green Machine - Reloaded! #4318 with 4-H’ers Caleb Driesman, Seamus Burke, Noah Bennett, Payton Stoneberger, Morin French, Octavia Lewis, Kelly Green and Ben Farber

  • Mechanical Paradox #7182 with 4-H’ers Kieran Barvenik, John Barvenik, Olivia Merryman, Aaron Basom, Luke Basom, Hydee Wright and Jacob Wright  

The Horizons teams partnered up for the finals at the Maryland FTC Championship and ended as the Finalist Alliance.  This allowed them to progress to the FTC East Super-Regional Championship in Scranton, Pennsylvania on March 19-21, 2015.  Seventy-two teams from Maine to Virginia compete at this tournament.  

After a grueling nine pool matches both teams were well positioned to make it into the semi-finals.  Mechanical Paradox got snatched up by the first seeded team to be members of their alliance.  The semi-finals and finals were very exciting. Mechanical Paradox’s alliance not only won the Hopper Division but went on to become Champions of the East Super-Region- WOW!!

Green Machine - Reloaded! was captain of the third seeded team in the Hopper Division. Their alliance did not make it out of the semi-finals.  However their strong pool match performance, 8 wins and 1 loss, allowed them to join their sister team Mechanical Paradox on the road to St. Louis.

At the 2009 FIRST Robotics Championship, National 4-H Council and FIRST Robotics announced a partnership. The shared goal is to provide young people with more opportunities to explore science, engineering and technology (SET) careers through hands-on, team based experiences in the designing, building and programming of robots. The vision of the FIRST program is "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” - Dean Kamen, Founder. FIRST tournaments are run like sporting events with all the associated excitement and respect given to the participants. There are mascots, cheering fans, fun costumes and intense competition. Students see their achievements in STEM celebrated with the same level
of enthusiasm as athletic achievements. This makes a profound and positive impact on youth who traditionally have not received this type of attention for their accomplishments.

In 2009 Horizons 4-H Club established a robotics program for its members based on FIRST teams. Each team meets a minimum of six hours a week from September until they stop  progressing to the next level of competition. During the weeks leading up to a tournament the teams meet almost daily to make their robot the best it can be mechanically and programming it to perform a series of tasks.

FTC teams are required to keep an Engineering Notebook where they record their engineering journey throughout the season. This notebook plays a key role in FTC Judged awards. In addition, the teams must make a presentation at each tournament about their design choices and associated challenges to a panel of judges. Teamwork is vital to the success of any FTC team. This is true within their specific teams but also in working with other teams at the competitions. Teams are randomly assigned alliance partners for pool matches that determine which four teams become finalist alliance captains. Members must be able to communicate and work effectively with others who can be their alliance partners in one match and their opponent in the next.

One of the main strengths of the FTC program is that the robot is never truly finished. Our teams continue to improve their hardware and software designs throughout the season. After each tournament they apply the lessons learned and get back to the workshop to make their robot even better. Tournaments also allow the teens to learn more about themselves. How do we react under pressure? Are we using the stress of competition in a positive way or a negative way? How can we better communicate with the judges and other teams? What can we do to improve our Engineering Notebook?

Making the best better, learn by doing, communication skills, leadership, keeping records, and learning how to cooperate with others are pillars of the 4-H program and are also major components of an FTC team. The FTC World Championship will provide Horizons 4-H members the opportunity to work with, and compete against, teens from all over the world and push their skills to a new level. They have earned the right and are proud to represent 4-H, Maryland, the East Region, and the United States of America at this global event.

For further information please see:
Horizons 4-H Robotics Facebook Page:
FIRST Tech Challenge:
FIRST Championship:

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