From February 27 to March 1, 2020, we went to the Open Spanish FTC Championships with 3 teams (Team Gentlebotz, Team Orange, and Team Space) from the Newmancollege in Breda. These were held in Vic, just north of Barcelona.
Thursday 27 February 2020:
The teams arrived individually at the departure hall of Rotterdam Airport around 9.30 am. Mrs. Jonkers helped everyone check-in. The robots needed to go in first. Everything went well and our Transavia plane left for Barcelona at 11.30 am. After 1 hour and 56 minutes, we arrived in Barcelona. The weather was beautiful, with sunshine, no wind, and 16 degrees weather (60.8 degrees Fahrenheit). When we got our robots’ suitcases back, we opened those of Team Space and checked if everything was okay, but despite the stickers, they had transported it upside down 😱, luckily everything seemed fine.
A lady was waiting for the bus at the arrival hall. She escorted us to the bus and we left for Vic, about an hour’s drive.
We arrived at the hotel around 3 o’clock. Wow, that was a beautiful hotel. An old monastery which was renovated, with very luxurious and spacious rooms and a good breakfast buffet.
We decided that we would all go to our rooms and gather in the hotel lobby again at 5:00 PM. Then the coaches went to explore Vic together and have a bite to eat. The teams went out in groups themselves to explore and eat somewhere. Everyone had to be back at the hotel by 10 pm and send a message to Mrs. Jonkers that they were back.
The town of Vic is a historic town and looked cozy. Because it is in the mountains, it quickly became very chilly in the evening.
Fortunately, everyone was back at the hotel on time.
Friday, February 28, 2020:
Around 07.30 you could enjoy the breakfast buffet, which was pretty good. In the end, all teams and coaches had eaten at 10 am and we gathered outside by the stairs at 10.15 am. In column on to the competition location, which was a short 20-minute walk.
When we arrived at the building, we registered and were able to find and set up our pit.
Then it was unpacking the robot, testing, adjusting, exploring other teams, exploring the field, and practicing on the practice field. The practice field turned out to be wrong, and the robots got stuck on the edges, so you couldn’t test the autonomous. So there was no real testing. In addition, plenty of WiFi was used, which didn’t really benefit the robots’ connection. We soon found out that the FTC rules weren’t being taken very seriously. Safety glasses are usually mandatory in the pit, but only the 5 Dutch teams did so, almost no one else, not even the referees and organization….. We even approached them about it but to no avail.
During the lunch break, we got pizza. It was pretty good actually. You also got a drink. At the end of the afternoon, Team Casimir Tech, also from the Netherlands, decided it was time for a party and invited each team to come out on the square, where they turned on the music. The well-known Cotton eye Joe was turned on and danced in 2 rows opposite each other. After that, the Macarena was also done. Wonderful to see how all teams, or at least some teams, participated and made it very fun.
After this, it was time to prepare for the exhibition game in the main ring.
Our practice game didn’t go very well, because the robot stopped due to connection problems. The field was bigger than it should be, and it was also skewed. Again the wifi and Bluetooth weren’t switched off, and our phones are apparently very sensitive to this. We weren’t happy about that, this is a bad sign for tomorrow’s real game. Furthermore, there was no looking at penalties and so on.
Finally, at 8 o’clock we left again. Each team went its own way. We visited the Carrefour with our team before we went to the hotel. Just to buy some food and drink, and then we still had a long evening to work on the robot. We were the only ones who took their robot back to the hotel to continue working.
Back in the hotel, it turned out that 2 servos had broken. so we replaced them. then all cables and software checked and tested, but we couldn’t find anything. At 12 o’clock in the morning, we stopped to be fit for the next morning.
Saturday, February 29, 2020:
We had to get up early today. Everyone had to have breakfast at half-past seven and we would walk to the competition location at a quarter past eight. Once there, straight away we started working on the robot again, testing, driving, testing, driving. Weird was that when we drove on the pit area, everything about the robot worked fine.
Then the presentation. The team must present itself and the robot to a jury. Everything in English, because that is the working language within FTC. But the presentation went much better than during the NK. We were more confident and were able to tell more and more clearly about the robot, outreach, sponsorship, engineering.
This was followed by the robot inspection. This went very well too. Onto the field inspection, no problems here either. So we can officially participate!
And then onto the matches. The referee did everything with a notepad in hand and not with a tablet as in the Netherlands. So everything had to be counted manually and passed on to the person behind the computer. Unfortunately, many mistakes were made in the counts. Also during the matches, the playing teams had to indicate when there was a penalty because they did nothing with it. So there were a lot of protests during the day because there were teams that had actually won a match but were written down as lost, which wasn’t reversed, even if the opposing side felt that the other side was right. Very bizarre, but anyway, as far as we know, we weren’t disadvantaged in any case.
In the first match, we played with Qube from Romania. They were very good, so we were happy with them as an alliance partner. unfortunately, they had to do it on their own because our robot had problems with the connection. (The wifi and the Bluetooth were still jammers). We were very upset, but thanks to Qube, we did win this game with 85 points.
We immediately went back to the pit to test our robot. We put the robot on the large field at the Pit, and yes, the robot did exactly everything it had to do, without disturbances. What could we do about this? Our courage sank considerably, but we kept looking, testing, and trying. Cables plugged out and in again, USB hubs replaced, cables secured with duct tape.
On to the second party:
In the third match, we played together with Stanislas Tech Team. unfortunately, 3 robots stopped during this game. Including ours. We went to the referee to ask if this match could be redone because in the Netherlands it was allowed at the NK. But no, we unfortunately couldn’t redo the match. So this match was lost.
In the meantime, we tried to find a way to fix it. We kept looking for USB hubs borrowed from other teams, but that too was to no avail.
We did another match, this time together with the Robocats. Here our robot took on a life of its own! In autonomous mode, the robot went across the entire field and you can’t do anything about it during autonomous, because you’re not allowed to use the controllers. After that we had no connection during the driver-controlled period, so we were just stood still. Very frustrating.
And then it was lunchtime. We had to pass on our orders for lunch 2 weeks ago. We were given a choice of 4 menus and this had to be reported on time. They had arranged that perfectly, although that was only one of the few things they did well. The food tasted good, and everyone got dessert, a drink, and a piece of fruit.
After lunch, the games started again. Our team is currently 14th. That’s not so good. So we hoped for improvement in the last 3 games. Still figuring out what the problems could be. In the meantime also spoken with other teams, but no one has ever experienced anything like this.
Our 4th match was with TNT from Tenerife, a girls team that had their very first match in FTC, led by a nun. Super friendly and all, but not the alliance partner you would like at a championship. This championship is the only FTC competition in Spain in the whole year. In the Netherlands, you must first qualify through a qualifying match.
Given the previous game, we skipped the autonomous for now. In the driver-controlled period, it seemed to go pretty well, until we wanted to move the foundation, and there we were again. Our courage continued to sink, and our alliance partner hasn’t left its starting position since the start. So they couldn’t even score points, in the end, we of course lost this match and only scored 7 points. 2 for the blocks and 5 for the parking in the triangle, which happened without us doing anything. We went back to the Pit. Our information science teacher Mr. Luijten from school was also there as a guide and has always looked and thought along, but was also unable to find a direct solution. But the fact remained that the WiFi and BlueTooth at the matches caused a lot of connection issues on our robot.
Then the next match, this time together with the Mechanical Sharks from Spain. It was very difficult, and we also had connection problems again, but luckily we were able to do something and won also thanks to the Sharks.
And then the last match. We played this one together with Team Orange. Our sister team from school. They did very well today and have a good chance of going to the final.
And luckily we had won this last game. We had decided not to do the autonomous here either, and to hand the building blocks for Orange because they can stack well. And that worked out nicely. With this last match, we ended up in 9th place. Finally a match without connection problems. Unfortunately, it was our last match.
After the very last game was played, there was a break. Then it was checked who the first to fourth-best teams were. They could then choose an alliance partner for the final rounds to continue with. At the moment Orange was in 4th place and so they could choose. Team Space was 11th and we were 9th.
The selection of the alliances is usually very official with all team captains of all teams lined up in a large row with their robot. This wasn’t the case today, because an award ceremony of the First Lego League was held in the main hall, and that is valued higher than FTC in Spain. Strange, but that’s because at the moment FTC is in its infancy in Spain and FLL is very popular.
Now the team captains had to stand in a small circle with a referee and a notepad. No microphone included, so the other team members couldn’t hear anything. Eventually, it turned out that team Qube, who had become 2nd team, has chosen Team Orange and that was very positive for Orange, now they could well become champions together. Team Space was also lucky to be chosen by Stanislas Tech. So they also had a chance now. We did expect not to be chosen, because who wants a team in the final that always loses its connection?
So after a long break, we decided as a team, to pack all our gear and robot and prepare for the return flight. We were happy that we were still 9th, but of course, we weren’t really happy about the connection issues. So we jointly decided to make it a nice final. We were going to encourage our two sister teams from school. We are friends and classmates after all, and they are in the final rounds, so hopefully encouraging will help them.
The finals started and we sang, shouted, danced, and pulled out all the stops to help Space and Orange to victory. Unfortunately, Space was the first to finish and they ended up 4th, which is a very nice achievement.
Orange was allowed to continue. And in the end, they won, how happy they and we were. so we still have a very nice party to go!
At the award ceremony, each team was first allowed on the podium separately, where we all received a medal:
After the medal ceremonies were over, we had an award ceremony. There are always a few awards given out for teams that have done a certain special achievement.
And what is our surprise? We received the CONNECT award!!!
This stands for:
Connecting the dots between community, FIRST, and the
diversity of the engineering world.
This judged award is given to the team that most connects
with their local science, technology, engineering and math
(STEM) community. A true FIRST team is more than a sum of
its parts and recognizes that engaging their local STEM
community plays an essential part in their success. The
recipient of this award is recognized for helping the community
understand FIRST, the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the team
itself. The team that wins the Connect Award aggressively
seeks and recruits engineers and explores the opportunities
available in the world of engineering, science and technology.
This team has a clear team plan and has identified steps to
achieve their goals.
Required criteria for the Connect Award:
• Team shows respect and Gracious
Professionalism® to everyone they meet at a
FIRST Tech Challenge event.
• Team must submit an engineering notebook. The
engineering notebook must include team plan that
identifies their future goals and the steps they will
take to reach those goals. Examples of what the
plan could include are fund-raising goals,
sustainability goals, timelines, outreach, and
community service goals.
• Team provides clear examples of developing in
person or virtual connections with individuals in
the engineering, science, or technology
• Team actively engages with the engineering
community to help them understand FIRST, the
FIRST Tech Challenge, and the team itself.
And wow, this is what we got! A huge surprise and we totally hadn’t expected it:
We are of course very proud of this award. The technology let us down a lot during this game, but we continued to look for solutions until the last game, unfortunately, this didn’t work, but we can still be proud. We had a nice few days, learned a lot, and got to know each other but also other teams better.
We would like to thank all our sponsors once again for their contribution to our team, and hopefully, we can approach you again next season to help our team even further!:
Big thanks to Newmancollege, Meteor Systems, VDL Steelweld, TOPSystems, DDS, Adocs, Cugla, Fam. Cabaret, Fam. Huijben, Barten’s Slagerij, Lips, and Pol and all our other sponsors!