CS&E Sponsors Local Team for 2024 FIRST® Robotics World Championship

The Department of Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) will sponsor the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team, Potential Energy, as they head to the 2024 FIRST® Robotics World Championship this week in Houston, Texas. Potential Energy is an FTC team composed of Mounds View High School students, and is one of four Minnesota teams advancing to the World Championship. CS&E is pledging $1,000 to help fund the trip.

Potential Energy qualified for the World Championships due in large part to their outreach efforts throughout the season. As part of FTC competitions, outreach and community efforts are evaluated and hold equal weight to the team robot’s performance in competition. The members of Potential Energy have made a significant impact in the local community by increasing awareness and resources for kids interested in robotics.

“We are really proud of our outreach efforts as a team,” said James Chowdhury-Dinsmoor, a sophomore on the team. “This year we lobbied state legislators to promote the Bill HF2497, the education omnibus bill. The bill gained a huge grant for High-Tech Kids, who sponsors FTC teams in Minnesota and runs all FTC events. In total, it secured $730,000 for High-Tech Kids and their partners.”

In addition to their monumental impact in the state legislature, Potential Energy also mentors other FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams to build interest in robotics. They also do robot demonstrations at local elementary schools and the YMCA, and run a recycling program to help other teams recycle their custom-made parts after the season.  

“During the legislative process for the bill, they actually mentioned our team on the house floor,” said Harry Xu, another sophomore on the team. “Our goal for the mentoring program is to make a big enough impact that we can have a consistent robotics program in our district, which currently does not exist.”

Each year FTC introduces a new robot game for the season. Teams spend a few months building their robots in the fall, and then compete in league play or qualifying competitions. This year, the challenge is called CENTERSTAGE presented by RTX, and Potential Energy will compete with their robot named Ajay.

Ajay the robot

Each match is two and a half minutes long, starting with a 30 seconds autonomous period followed by a minute and a half driver-controlled period. Through the competition, the robot focuses on completing as many repeatable tasks as possible. During the last 30 seconds of the match, each team has the opportunity to earn extra points for doing one-time tasks, like hanging from a bar.

Heading into the World Championships, the team looks forward to meeting other robotics enthusiasts, especially teams from other countries. In the off season, they hope to continue building their programming skills and boosting their community efforts for the next generation of students.

“We were really inspired by the team that helped us get started - Spontaneous Construction,” said Holmdahl. “They made a huge impact in the community by starting FLL and FTC teams. Our goal is to do as much as we can like they did. Also, there is a lot of work we would like to do on the robot that we didn’t get to this year. We made an incredible amount of progress and understand more about domain-specific knowledge in robotics. In the future, we hope the robot can pick a point in the field and navigate there while avoiding items.”

Good luck to Potential Energy this week in Houston! Learn more at their team website.