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Ingenuity, Creativity At FIRST Robotics Competition
by Lily Chen, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command
March 31, 2022

Ten Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) and Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific-mentored high school robotics teams joined students from across Southern California and Hawaii to compete at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition (FRC) San Diego Regional Tournament presented by Qualcomm March 18-22, 2022 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego, California.

March 18, 2022 - The W.A.R.Lords robot (2485) completed the round by doing pull-up on the highest bar gaining more points for the team in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. The W.A.R.Lords is one of nine teams who are mentored and sponsored by Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various obstacles in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)
March 18, 2022 - The W.A.R.Lords robot (2485) completed the round by doing pull-up on the highest bar gaining more points for the team in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. The W.A.R.Lords is one of nine teams who are mentored and sponsored by Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various obstacles in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)

Now in its 30th year, FRC is an international high school robotics competition where teams of high school students, coaches and mentors work together during an eight-week period to build game-playing robots that are designed to complete a number of tasks against a field of competitors.

As one of the first competitive robotics events open to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic, energy was high as competitors tinkered on their robots in their team pit booths, surrounded by computers, tools and a wide array of pins and stickers to trade with other teams.

During the event, NAVWAR Executive Director John Pope felt the excitement as he walked through the pit, chatting with students from NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific teams to learn more about the design of their robots and their role within their teams.

“Given the complexity of what we do to meet warfighter needs, it’s amazing to see the kind of ingenuity, motivation and enthusiasm these students have at the high school level,” said Mr. Pope. “In speaking with all these different teams, it was great how diverse and varied their designs are and how they’ve expressed their creativity to be able to accomplish the goals set by the competition.”

This year at the San Diego Regional, 54 teams competed in the robotics challenge titled “RAPID REACT,” where teams were required to use innovative engineering, creative thinking and teamwork to reimagine the future of safe, high-speed travel, and lightning-fast deliveries to propel the next evolution of transportation forward. Their robots had to pick up balls and shoot them into the goal as well as climb a set of ascending monkey bars all within two-and-a-half minutes, with more points awarded for how many balls they can make into differently-scored goals and how many rungs they can climb.

March 18, 2022 - Fifty-four high school robotic teams competed at the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. Nine teams are mentored and sponsored by Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various obstacles in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)
March 18, 2022 - Fifty-four high school robotic teams competed at the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. Nine teams are mentored and sponsored by Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various obstacles in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)

Ella Perry, a senior at Kearny High School and a member of the design team for The Hammer Heads, has been participating in FIRST since she competed in FIRST LEGO League (FLL) as a middle school student. “Being a part of FIRST gave me a passion for designing and building, and now I’m planning to major in mechanical engineering at college,” she said. “FIRST is where I started to believe I could actually pursue engineering as a career path, and I love the teamwork and creativity that is involved with robotics. This is a sport that anyone can play.”

Dubbed a varsity “sport for the mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of high school students are challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills and build and program industrial-sized robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors.

NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific have been involved in FIRST since 2009, when Science Technology Engineering and Medicine (STEM) Outreach Coordinator Wanda Curtis created the local program and organized the first NAVWAR FLL Qualifying Tournament, partnering with TitanBot, an FRC team, at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif. With support from the Department of Defense, NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific have engaged hundreds of teams in the past 10-plus years, with an average of 40 to 50 teams mentored by NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific employees competing in FIRST every year.

“I’m super excited to have an in-person event where NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific mentors can show off the robots they’ve been working on since January,” said Brian Williams, NAVWAR STEM outreach coordinator and mentor for The Hammer Heads. “It’s incredible to see what our future STEM professionals can create.”

Each robotics team operates similar to that of a small company, with different arms in charge of individual duties, like fundraising, design, programming, building and even outreach to promote STEM at home and abroad. One NAVWAR-mentored team, Team Spyder of Poway High School, has traveled abroad to start and support robotics teams in countries like Ecuador and Libya.

March 18, 2022 - Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) Executive Director John Pope, left, receives a tour of Team Spyder’s robot during the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. Team Spyder is one of nine teams who are mentored and sponsored by NAVWAR and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various courses in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)
March 18, 2022 - Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) Executive Director John Pope, left, receives a tour of Team Spyder’s robot during the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) held at Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena. Team Spyder is one of nine teams who are mentored and sponsored by NAVWAR and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific employees at the three-day event to challenge the team’s innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork through various courses in the competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Ramon Go)

Peter Poirier, a scientist at NIWC Pacific, became involved with FRC when his son joined the Patribots team at Patrick Henry High School. “My favorite part of being a mentor is seeing the kids solve problems and work together, especially when they practice gracious professionalism at these kinds of competitions by helping the other teams if they need tools or materials,” he said. “These kids gain valuable skills by being a part of a robotics team, like soldering and coding, which will help them later on in life.”

Several NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific mentored teams were recognized with awards including:

• Regional Chairman’s Award – Team Spyder (FRC #1622)
• Regional Winners – Aluminum Narwhals (FRC #3128)
• Highest Rookie Seed – MechanicAnts (FRC #8537)
• Rookie All Star Award – MechanicAnts (FRC #8537)
• Excellence in Engineering Award – TitanBot (FRC #2543)
• Gracious Professionalism Award – Aluminum Narwhals (FRC #3128)
• Creativity Award – W.A.R. Lords (FRC #2485)

Both Team Spyder and Aluminum Narwhals will advance to the FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, which will take place April 20-23, 2022.

About FIRST:

Founded in 1989, FIRST is a robotics community that prepares young people for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs for ages 4-18. They operate the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge competitions.

About NAVWAR:

NAVWAR identifies, develops, delivers and sustains information warfighting capabilities and services that enable naval, joint, coalition and other national missions operating in warfighting domains from seabed to space and through cyberspace. NAVWAR consists of more than 11,000 civilian, active duty and reserve professionals located around the world.

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