FIRST Newsletter - January, 2014 - FIRST Tech Challenge Highlights

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FIRST Tech Challenge Highlights

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More Teams; More Opportunities to Compete

The FTC BLOCK PARTY!SM season — one of all-around growth for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) program — got off to a great start with a record number of teams and events for students in grades 7-12. FTC grew by 30% and there are now over 3,200 teams in North America. When teams from around the globe are tallied, FTC has a total team density of over 3,500! 

The program has also continued to expand options for teams in both robot parts and competition formats. The addition of the MATRIX Robotics Kit in North America and the allowance of a wide variety of raw materials allow FTC teams to further unleash their creativity as they design, build, and program their robots. 

With the continuation of the League and Meet program, FTC continues to move towards putting robotics on the same tier as other middle- and high-school sports. With only 128 teams advancing to the FTC World Championship, FTC Super-Regional Championship Tournaments are an exciting addition to the 2013-2014 FTC season that present teams with more opportunities to compete. 

FTC teams are now also eligible for more college money than ever through the FIRST Scholarship Program, with access to over $13 million in college scholarships. 

FTC Volunteer Spotlight – Dale Jordan

Dale Jordan started coaching an FTC Team in Oregon six years ago. When his students moved on to college, he decided that volunteering with the state organization was a natural progression.

"I had an incredible time as a Coach and when the kids aged out, I saw no reason to quit," he said.  "I had a very positive experience interacting with the people who ran the tournaments and I wanted to continue that relationship.”

Dale, a retired software engineer, began volunteering with FTC as a Judge Advisor. In this role, he was responsible for making sure the Judges were trained and on schedule throughout the day of the tournament so the awards ceremony could happen on time. He said his role was way out of his comfort zone, but that the time flew by so quickly once the day started.

"The people I worked with were fantastic and when the tournament was over, I was ready to do it all over again, and have ever since," he said.

While Dale loves working with the other Volunteers in Oregon, his favorite aspect is talking with the kids at competitions and hearing about what they've learned and done. He can usually be found in the pit area talking with team members, many of whom he's gotten to know well over the years.

"Quite often this happens at the end of the tournament, which usually puts me behind in my teardown duties and I'm always the last one to leave the tournament," said Dale.

When Dale isn't volunteering at events, he's working with the Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program's Planning Committee on the future of the program in the state and regularly volunteers for roles with the FTC program at the national level, including World Championship.

JoAnn Halloran, FTC Program Manager, said Dale is a key Volunteer for the program and consistently dedicates his time and talents to making FTC a better program.

"We've come to rely heavily on Dale for his technical expertise and creative problem solving," said JoAnn. "Dale is a true Gracious Professional and we're lucky to have him as a Volunteer."

One thing that impresses Dale the most about FTC is how the students are integrated alongside the adults. He said his favorite moments have come when students have stepped up to help make sure events run smoothly. At the RING IT UP!SM Oregon State Championship, Dale said all he had to do was back up the truck to the loading doors and the kids did the rest.

"Teams showed up early to set up and then got prepared to compete. Other teams stayed after to tear down. This made the workload very manageable for everyone," he said.

Dale says he enjoys working with all the people who volunteer their time at FTC events and encourages others to volunteer, too. He says there are plenty of smaller roles to play to try the program on for size and if it seems like a good fit, there are more in-depth roles to get involved in.

"[FTC] Volunteers are high energy and very focused on running a quality program," he said. "It's a geeky event, so I feel right at home, and it is very satisfying to watch the kids develop their skills."

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