Imagine a doubles tennis tournament where instead of training and competing with a specific partner, the pairings were continuously randomized throughout the tournament. How would that affect your tournament strategy? How would you relate to the other competitors?
This is exactly how it works in the FIRST Tech Challenge, where every game is played with an alliance of two teams (and their robots) facing off against another alliance of two teams. Since the alliance pairings keep changing through the tournament, a team that is your opponent in one match may be your ally in another.
The result of this tournament style is that although the teams can get quite competitive with each other, there is always a larger incentive for teams to work together and cooperate.
To facilitate the inter-team relationships that make this cooperation possible, the Coalition partners with Pennsylvania FIRST Robotics and local teams to organize a series of events throughout the school year for teams to get together, collaborate, and learn from one another. Adult mentors and volunteers are also on hand at every event to support the teams and ensure that the events run smoothly.
Workshops are staffed by volunteers from the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition, Pennsylvania FIRST Robotics, the Central High School RoboLancers, and the host teams.
2019–2020 Schedule of Events
Program It! Philadelphia | October 26, 2019 | 12–4pm | Academy at Palumbo
Drive It! Philadelphia | November 23, 2019 | 12–4pm | Bodine High School
Each workshop guides teams through a phase of the engineering design process. Separate sessions run simultaneously for building the physical robot, programming the robot, and preparing the engineering notebook and presentation for the judges. A certified judge and referee are on hand for each workshop to answer student questions, and an official playing field is set up for students to explore and test their prototypes.
December 14, 2019 | 8am–4pm | Central High School
The scrimmage gives teams their first taste of competition. Teams arrive with functional robots, which must pass inspection by the referees before they are allowed on the competition field. Students learn competition etiquette and procedures so that they and their robots are ready for prime time. The scrimmage is free and open to the public. This year, the Philadelphia Scrimmage is concurrent with a FIRST Lego League event for younger students.
February 8, 2020 | 7:45am–5:30pm | Central High School
At the Philadelphia Qualifier, teams compete in the robot game and in judge interviews for the opportunity to advance to the Pennsylvania State Championship in March (and from there, perhaps to the world championship in Detroit in April!) The qualifier is free and open to the public.
Pennsylvania FTC Championship
The Pennsylvania FTC Championship is not a Coalition event, but the Coalition does provide funding and logistics support to ensure that all Philadelphia public school teams who qualify to compete in the championship are able to make the trip. In 2018, five Philadelphia teams qualified to compete at this event which was held in York, PA.
April 18, 2020 | 7:45am–5:30pm | Central High School
RoboRumble is an off-season event for Philadelphia teams. In addition to a full qualifier-style robot competition, teams have the opportunity to present to a panel of judges in a less formal setting. Teams get to hear immediate verbal feedback from the judges about their presentation and engineering notebook (which is not allowed in a qualifier) and they get to witness another team deliver their presentation. RoboRumble draws back the curtain on the judging process and gives teams an opportunity to come together to celebrate the end of the season. RoboRumble is free and open to the public.