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EDH, Folsom robotics teams advance

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From page A1 | April 06, 2012 |

The Folsom-based Robotics team Nova and Robo Chicken Gator Flys of Papayaland, a robotics team in El Dorado Hills, have both qualified for the First Tech Challenge World Championship April 25-28 in St. Louis, Mo.

This year, 128 teams will earn their way to the FTC World Championship. Twenty-four of those teams will advance from 12 events that are held outside the U.S. in countries like Canada, China, India, Mexico and the Netherlands.

The First Tech Challenge is a robotics competition for high school students based on sports model. Teams of up to 10 students design, build and program their robots to compete as alliances against other teams.

An alliance is a “partnering” of two teams, a captain team and a helper team. The helper team serves to strengthen the advantage of the captain team in the final rounds. Using a combination of motors, controllers, wireless communications, metal gears, and sensors, including infrared tracking and magnet seeking, teams will program their robots to operate in both autonomous (without drivers) and driver-controlled modes on a field that includes two home zones with a platform and a ramp, and two protected zones.

The object of the game is to design and build robots that are strong enough to push a bowling ball up the ramp, yet sophisticated enough to pick up racquetballs and place them into crates, and then stack the crates to score points.

The RCGFoPL team beat out 38 other robotics teams at the Las Vegas Regional Qualifying Tournament in January to qualify for the World Championship. The RCGFoPL is a private team. Its team members are Ryan McLaughlin and Amey Natu of Folsom High School and Kaythan Somavarapu, Alex Krueger, Shivani Sharma, Sumega Mandadi and Ben and Thomas Tucker of Oak Ridge High School.

In February to qualify for the World Championship Competition, the Folsom Nova team won the Inspire Award at the Northern Nevada FTC Championship tournament. The Inspire Award is the most prestigious First Tech Challenge award, and is given to the team that truly embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FTC program. Nova beat teams from three different states to win the award.

Nova members are Jack Tao, Alex Khoury, Josiah Intia, Millun and Rohun Atluri of Vista Del Lago High School; Jamin Sagay of Jesuit High School; and Nathan Somavarapu and Uma Dinganka of Oak Ridge High School.

As a newly formed team, everyone on Nova had to learn the mechanics of robot construction and programming from the start. Each member has taken on one or multiple roles such as builder, programmer, designer, Website designer, etc.

“The kids enjoy building the robot, programming and debugging it,” said Srini Atluri, coach of Nova and an engineer at Intel in Folsom. “They are so dedicated to making the robot work that I have to tell them on many occasions to stop and focus on their school work instead. They have so much fun working on the robot while learning valuable life skills such as problem-solving and teamwork.”

Both teams, in addition to having a set of brothers each, also have a family in common. One brother Nathan from the Somavarapu family is on Nova, while Kaythan, the younger brother is on RCGFoPL. The two teams have competed in the same tournaments, sometimes as an alliance and sometimes competing with each other, much to the stress of parents Prabhakar and Rupa Somavarapu. But it is a happy ending in the family now that both teams have advanced to the World Championship.

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