San Diego FIRST Robotics Competition

San Diego FIRST Robotics Competition

Earlier this month, the OLP robotics team, The Pilots, became the first all-female team to compete in the San Diego FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Regional, held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The competition requires teams to build a robot over a six-week period and compete with that robot during regional competitions, where qualifying teams earn invitations to world championships.

At the San Diego regional, the team’s robot was capable and consistent, as were the team’s overall operations. The girls partnered well with other teams and earned a ranking of 48 out of 66 teams at the competition. Notably, only 5 rookie teams were present at the competition, so The Pilots’ showing was quite impressive for a team in its first year. The judges at the competition agreed, and The Pilots received the competition’s Rookie All-Star Award, which is given to the most outstanding rookie team at the competition.

This award is given to a rookie team that not only competes well, but also demonstrates a commitment to the values and mission of FIRST Robotics, which include gracious professionalism, community outreach, business planning, marketing and fundraising, and safety. Further, because this award is given to teams that demonstrate a strong potential for building a program that will continue to inspire innovation within their schools and communities for years to come, the institutional support for The Pilots was also an important component of the team’s presentation to the judges at the competition. OLP supports the robotics team with a full-year robotics class, during which each student learns to CAD, code, and build.

OLP girls are unique among most female participants in FIRST, because The Pilots take full ownership of their robot’s design, construction, and operation. While many of the female competitors on other teams focus primarily on softer aspects of the program, such as community outreach, grant writing, or marketing, each member of The Pilots had a hand in designing and/or building the team’s robot, regardless of her other work on behalf of the team. When visitors approached the team’s pit during the competition, many asked where the boys were; hadn’t a group of young men built this robot on behalf of the girls? “No,” responded The Pilots, “we built this robot ourselves.”

As word spread that San Diego’s first all-girls FIRST Robotics Competition team was not only present but in full control of its operations, dozens of women and young girls dropped by the team’s pit to see what The Pilots were all about. Students from other schools asked how they might transfer; younger students asked how to apply. Female engineers dropped by to encourage The Pilots, and little girls told their mothers that they wanted to be Pilots one day.

On the last day of the competition, when awards were given, The Pilots cheered in excitement as they received the Rookie All-Star award. The award qualified The Pilots for the FIRST World Championship in Houston, TX, where the team will compete from April 18–21. One week later, the team received a second major award, Qualcomm’s Matt Grobb Innovation Award, which is given to a team that inspires innovation among its members, school, and community. This award came with $10,000 to be applied toward the team’s trip to Houston.

Currently, The Pilots are busy preparing for the world championship. The team is designing upgrades for its robot and pit, and it is making new connections with community partners and potential sponsors. Further, the team is expanding its outreach efforts to help other students benefit from FIRST Robotics.

Our Robotics team are winners of the Matt Grobb Innovation Award from the San Diego FIRST Robotics competition. This award recognizes one qualifying team from the San Diego Regional, who exemplifies a high level of innovation throughout the competition. Not only did our Pilots receive distinguished honor but they also received a $10,000 award to help them travel to and compete at the 2018 First World Championship in Houston!

This grant will make a huge impact, but won’t fully cover the costs to get our girls to Houston. Please consider a donation today to get our girls there! Click here to donate!