Santa Barbara’s only FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team, Syntax Error, qualified this past Saturday for the Los Angeles FTC Regional Championships by earning the 2nd Place Inspire Award at a qualifying tournament in Claremont, CA.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math. FTC teams design, build, and program their robots to compete on a 12-foot x 12-foot field in an alliance format against other teams. Robots are built with a TETRIX® platform.

In their second season, high school seniors Collin Dutter, Kyle Kovacs, and Andrew McGuan from Dos Pueblos High School and Ryan Weideman from San Marcos High School learned about this year’s game challenge in September. Also known as Team 6077, the boys meet twice weekly with coach Kristen Kovacs and with Christian Marx, an MIT graduate and new team mentor.

This season’s challenge asks the teams to create robots that can collect 2-inch plastic cubes from the floor and place them into bins on a pendulum. Additional points are scored if the pendulum remains balanced. There are several bonus scoring opportunities as well.

Syntax Error has a robust robot design that proved effective in match play at Saturday’s tournament. “We created our robot to handle all the challenges in the game,” said Dutter, “and programmed multiple strategies for the autonomous period.”

The team earned the 2nd Place Inspire Award for being a role-model FTC Team. The Inspire Award recognizes teams that act with Gracious Professionalism™ both on and off the playing field; are able to communicate their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge to other teams, sponsors, and the judges; and are strong competitors. Judges acknowledged Syntax Error’s exciting return this season as error-fighting superheroes with their green body suits and black capes.

Community outreach is highly valued by FIRST and is also a component of the Inspire Award. Team 6077 demonstrated their winning robot design from last year at local elementary schools and science nights as well as at summer camps and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Tinker Fair.

Syntax Error also brought home the Control Award, new this season, and was nominated for several other judged categories. The Control Award is given to the team that uses sensors and software to enhance the robot’s functionality on the field, demonstrating innovative thinking in the control system to solve game challenges.

The team will compete in the Los Angeles FIRST Tech Challenge Regional Championship Tournament in February. This contest serves the greater Los Angeles area including Santa Barbara. The overall winners of the Regional Championships qualify to compete in March at the FTC Super-Regional Championship (a new level added this year) in McClellan, CA.

For more information about the FIRST Tech Challenge program, visit the website


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