Guam teens take 3rd at World 2019 FIRST Global Challenge

The FIRST Global Challenge is known for being the “most exciting competition for robotics in the world.”

On a quest to empower the globe’s youth to be a part of the generation that will change the world, FGC is not just about robots. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, wanted to ensure the future generations have an impactful catalyst for STEM programs and careers.

In hopes of igniting revolutionary innovation, he brings together people from every walk of life, uniting students with a passion for robotics. FGC is designed from the ground up to be nothing short of exhilarating. The competition teaches high school students to solve the world’s problems through robotics, influencing socialization and networking, and encouraging outreach and strategizing.

The FIRST Global challenge was the most invigorating event I have ever participated in. Being a part of the over 1,500 passionate individuals to attend, I felt as if I was a part of something bigger, and not a single person was just a face in the crowd, but a piece of it.

The competition, which this year was themed Ocean Opportunities, required competing alliances to clear the ocean by collecting pollutants, delivering them to processing areas, and removing their robots, or collectors, from the ocean. Collectors scored points by depositing pollutants onto the three levels of centrally located processing barge. Each level represents different degrees of processing – recovery, recycle and reuse.

Team Guam won eight of nine matches, placing fifth in the overall competition and third in the ranked playoffs.

Precompetition preparations

We wouldn’t have been able to do as well as we did in the competition if it weren’t for our extensive engineering, planning and design process.

Taking place in a small meeting room at the GDOE building near Tiyan High School, my team and I practice after school every day from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. We worked diligently to find innovative ways to create effective and compact systems for our robot.

One of the most demanding aspects of the initial process wasn’t even the engineering. The task that caused us the most headache was fundraising enough money to cover our expenses for the trip and the robot kit. From movie nights, car washes, food plate sales, donations and small sponsorships from local companies, we mustered up any support we could.

The engineering

The central focus of the engineering process was the design and modeling phase.

The team needed to decide on a viable design that we could modify between then and during the competition.

We went through countless renditions of subsystems, and learned that communication is key. However, we had to learn to balance out communication and knowing when to commit to an idea; the many competing thoughts about the design ultimately delayed the entire process.

We learned from that experience and we made sure each of us expressed our beliefs about the bot. At the competition, communication was an absolute necessity as we dealt with tight spaces and crunched time frames.

Climbing the ladder

The first day was consumed with my team and me correcting any flaws in the bot and testing subsystems in proactive practice matches. We inspected every inch of the robot, ensuring no flaw could cost us a match.

We used our practice matches to identify complications on our robot and how we can make efficient use of our robot’s subsystems.

As we started our ranking matches, we exceeded any expectations we had for ourselves, which gave us hope for the upcoming matches.

Every time I was in the arena, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me; I felt empowered and eager to win. We were there not only to compete, but to also make friends and fulfill our role in the community among peers. We won eight of our nine matches, and once the dust settled, we ranked fifth place overall.

Leaving with a full heart

We were placed in a playoff alliance with teams Sri Lanka, The United Kingdom and Kazakhstan. We bonded instantly, and our passion drove us throughout the playoffs.

We played as hard as we could. We fought for the top spot valiantly; and throughout the ordeal we maintained our sportsmanship. Eventually we were overpowered by another alliance.

During the closing ceremony we sat with our alliance and watched as teams were called onto the stage to receive their well-deserved medals.

Then, we heard our team called to the stage.

Every one of us was absolutely thrilled.

We did not just leave Dubai with bronze medals adorning our necks. We left Dubai with the knowledge that each of us had taken a step toward a career in STEM and that we are, indeed, the future.

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