First Tech Challenge
I met a few friends near the end of middle school who shared my enthusiasm for electronics and mechanical systems. I’m still not aware of how the idea originally came up, but one friend was dead set on starting a robotics team for our soon-to-be high school. We joined together as a team of six students and discussed what it would mean to build such a team and where funding would come from. There was no good funding source besides potentially the school, but we were never granted any aid for our team and not officially recognized as a school-associated group despite our attempts to be. The parents of group members made it happen, though, and we met weekly on Sundays in preparation for a First Robotics Tech Challenge that many teams would end up participating in.
Each challenge presented an obstacle course with objectives, and teams sought to build a robot best suited for navigating the map and completing the objectives for that season. FTC was based on the Lego Mindstorms technology which, with some firmware tweaks, accepted such programming languages as Labview and Robot C to interface it with actuators and sensors.
The final competition took place in February of 2011, and although we did not win, the entire experience was fun and educational for all of us, and I am glad that I chose to be a part of the team. I ended up learning some Labview which I would eventually use in my engineering experimentation class in college, and Robot C, which helped set the stage for the 3pi C and C++ programming I would later do in my Engineering courses. It also exposed us all to fabrication methods and materials which we were not previously all familiar with as well as the tools and methods used to modify them to fit our specific needs.