Robotics competition set for Jan. 25 at Penn State York

Thirty-five teams of middle and high school students from across the state are registered for the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) South Central PA Regional Qualifier “Block Party!,” a robotics competition, to be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center at the campus. Opening ceremonies are at 10 a.m., followed by competitions throughout the day. Prior to the ceremony, teams will have an opportunity to get organized, register their robots and prepare for competition. This is the fourth time the campus has hosted this event. The free competition is open to the public to watch.

More than 400 attendees, including competitors and spectators are expected to attend. Four York County teams are among the competitors: Team Ratzo, Panda Wheelz, RoboRevenants and Pir2ates. This is the largest number of teams from York County to participate in the event.

The “Block Party!” competition features a task-oriented robotics event in which teams are asked to perform a variety of maneuvers with their robots. Those interested are encouraged to view a video of the game at to get a better idea of contest parameters.  

Marshall F. Coyle, associate professor of engineering at Penn State York, is the volunteer coordinator for the event, and is responsible for filling the many positions necessary to make the competition possible. It was his idea to bring the competition to campus four years ago. In addition, Coyle has worked to create the two teams sponsored by Penn State York, Panda Wheelz and Pir2ates.

“It is truly amazing to see the creativity these students exhibit in the creation of their robots,” said Coyle. “These kids have a bright future, and I am excited the campus is again hosting this event,” he said. “It is also exciting to have four teams from York County participating.”

Penn State York is one of the several regional sites. The qualifiers from the regionals compete in the State Championship, being held Saturday, March 1, at Millersville University, Millersville, Pa. Teams that qualify from the states will then proceed into the Super Regional, April 3 to 5 at the York Expo Center, Memorial Hall, York, Pa.

To view photos from last year's competition.

FIRST means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and the organization was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, an accomplished inventor, who wanted to inspire young people to appreciate science and technology.

According to Thomas Zawislak, FIRST FTC affiliate partner, team members are part of an alliance trying to perform tasks on the field with their robots. The event emphasizes gracious professionalism; winning is nice but the design process and participant attitude are the important goals.  Teams assist each other and members develop friendships and camaraderie throughout the competition.

Penn State York students, faculty, staff and business members from the York community work as volunteers during the competition, filling a variety of roles from judges to field tech advisers, scorekeepers, software inspectors and more. 

Throughout the competition teams are judged on sportsmanship, performance of their robots, completion of tasks, ability to follow rules and a variety of other criteria. Students in grades 7-12 are eligible to take part in the competition.

Teams registered for the Penn State York FTC including their team name, school or organization, and city and state are: Ozone, Oxford Robotics, Oxford, Pa.; Steel Hornets, Emmaus High School, Emmaus, Pa.; Ampere, Upper Dublin High School, Fort Washington, Pa; Scibot1 and Scibot 2, SciTech High School, Harrisburg, Pa.; Jag Wired, Garnet Valley, Glen Mills, Pa.; MASH, Friends of 401, West Vincent, Pa.; Wrench in the Works, Chester County Robotics, Downingtown, Pa.; Terabytes, Independent, Murrysville, Pa.; Silver Soldiers, Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, Pa.; DECEPTICONS, TCHS Pickering, Phoenixville, Pa.; Autobots, TCHS Brandywine, Downingtown, Pa.;  Minnie MASH, Friends of 401, West Vincent, Pa.; LANLords, Lancaster FTC, Millersville, Pa.; Imagine It, Imagine It, Palmyra, Pa.; Sparks, Academy of Notre Dame, Villanova, Pa.; Live Wire, Chester County Robotics, Downingtown, Pa.; Foobar, Oxford Robotics, Oxford, Pa.; Team Ratzo, Team Robotics of York, York, Pa.; Jaybots, Central Columbia High School, Bloomsburg, Pa.; Comets, Penn Manor High School, Millersville, Pa.; Igutech, Igutech, Inc., Schnecksville, Pa.; Cruzin’ Comets, Abington Heights High School and Lockheed Martin, Clarks Summit, Pa.; The Cruzin’ Comets, Abington Heights and Lockheed Martin, Clarks Summit, Pa.; Panda Wheelz, Penn State York, York, Pa.; RoboRevenants, Southeastern York Robotics, Fawn Grove, Pa.; Out of the Box Robotics, Independent, Thorndale, Pa.; Pir2ates, Penn state York, York, Pa.; Sab-BOT-age, Downingtown Area Robotics, Inc., Downingtown, Pa.; Silver Spartans, Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, Pa.; Flaming Phoenix, Patton Middle School, Kennett Square, Pa.; MASH Triage Unit, Friends of 401, West Vincent, Pa.; Automations, Pottstown High School, Pottstown, Pa.; Newmatics, Pottstown High School, Pottstown, Pa.; and Comets 2, Penn Manor High School, Millersville, Pa. Seventeen teams remain on the waiting list to compete since the facility is at capacity.

For more information about the event at Penn State York, visit For information about FIRST, visit

Schedule for the Day

7 a.m.    Volunteers arrive and register
8 a.m.    Teams arrive and register
              Hardware and software inspection begins
8:15 a.m.   Judge interviews begin
10:15 a.m.   Drivers meeting on competition field
10:30  a.m.   Opening ceremonies
10:45 a.m.   Qualification matches begin
12:30 p.m.   Lunch break
1 p.m.    Qualification matches resume
2:15 p.m.   Alliance selection
2:30 p.m.   Start semifinals
3:30 p.m.   Start finals
4:30 p.m.   Awards and closing ceremonies
5 p.m.   Event complete

Last Updated January 16, 2014