Prior to COVID, Code Red maintained an active schedule of volunteer service, community events, and running of programs throughout the year. We were thrilled to fully return to that active schedule in 2022.
A long-standing service of Code Red, since 2009, had been to serve monthly at a mobile food pantry at Carlisle United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Michigan. Sadly, when COVID happened, this church discontinued offering the monthly food pantry. For a time, there were no opportunities for resuming this volunteer opportunity for our students until we connected with Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan, who was looking for extra help with their mobile food pantry. Beginning in May, 2022, Code Red once again was able to serve our community the first Thursday of each month to continue our tradition. We help to sort food before food recipients arrive, then assist in handing out the food and helping recipients take it to their cars. The best part of volunteering is the wonderful people of Calvary Church and the connections we can make in brief conversations with food recipients resulting in smiles and “thank you’s”.
Summer of 2022 started with a robotics summer camp for elementary students. We ran a shortened version of our NRG season for one week with four evening sessions filled with STEM games and activities, robot building and modifying, and drive practice for our summer game, S.O.S. Synergy. At the end of the week, students and families participated in a tournament, complete with qualification and playoff matches as well as awards.
Community events during the off-season were plentiful in 2022 as well. We started our summer with a robot demonstration at a STEM summer camp at Davenport University. Middle school aged attendees of the camp learned about FIRST and played catch with our 2022 robot during the session.
That was followed a few weeks later by the Byron Days Festival. This growing event consisted of having a booth at the craft fair, the hub of the festival, and participating in the well-attended parade. Code Red decorated a float for the event that featured the robots and information about all of our teams (elementary, middle school, and high school). At our booth, visitors could play catch with both our 2022 and 2016 robots and build towers using toothpicks and marshmallows.
Next up was the 28th Street Metro Cruise. We were invited by the GM Manufacturing plant to be part of an open house and tour event. An entire Rapid React field was set up inside the factory, and people touring the factory could watch us along with several other area teams play elements of the game throughout the day. Our students had a great time interacting with the other teams, and even playing “tag” with our robots.
As a final community event in October, 2022, Code Red was part of the Confluence Festival in downtown Grand Rapids done in conjunction with Art Prize. Again, we were paired with several area teams to show off our robots and tell visitors all about FIRST to generate excitement for robotics and STEM. The event featured a unique activity, a robot parade through the area streets of downtown Grand Rapids.
With the arrival of Fall once again, Code Red was back to our fall activities of running our elementary program and mentoring our two FTC teams. As the robotics teams of Byron Center Public Schools, we were part of the Homecoming Parade as well. Looking back at the opportunities we had and the people we had the privilege of interacting with, we could say with confidence that we had lived out the mission of FIRST to inspire and impact.
The coming of Fall and a new school year means it is time for a new season of Next Robotics Generation (NRG), Code Red’s own program for elementary students in grades 4-6. This year, we once again had a full roster of students who gather to play STEM games, build a robot, and compete in this year’s new game, Block Battle.
Code Red’s new game was first created by the high school students and mentors during the months of COVID when the team could not meet. Instead of our regular meetings and projects, we met via Zoom. One project that could be completed while meeting remotely was to create a new game for our elementary students to play. In developing the game, we drew some ideas from the 2018 FRC game, Power Up, where robots had to place large blocks on scales to take ownership of those scales. We thought, “why not create the same challenge on a smaller scale for our elementary students?” That was the start of Block Battle.
As the fall NRG season began, students were excited to build their own Arduino robots, then design and add a manipulator to the robot that could push a block up a ramp and onto a scale. They also needed to be able to score blocks under the ramp and in a corner, all while following the rules of the game laid out in the game manual. Students go creative with materials like plastic cardboard, legos, and scrap pieces of aluminum to make them into pushers of various shapes and sizes. Several students added creativity to their designs by making their robots look like ladybugs or by decorating their robots with lights and characters. Of course, driving practice was a regular part of the meetings to learn how to push and score a block efficiently.
Besides robot work, the NRG students had fun as a team by playing STEM games at each meeting. They faced the challenges of building catapults with popsicle sticks and rubber bands that could launch a marshmallow. They took on multiple engineering challenges using building blocks, plastic cups, and popsicle sticks. And they did team building with a game called Blind Build. The STEM games helped the students get to know one another and develop communication skills that would be helpful for playing the game.
To cap off a fun season, NRG students competed in a tournament. Students competed with randomly assigned alliance partners in 6 qualification matches. The top eight students advanced to the playoffs and competed in semifinals and finals matches to determine the winner of the tournament. Running the tournament were the mentors and FRC students of Code Red, fulfilling the roles of monitoring the game management software, queuing robots for matches, setting up the field after each match, keeping score, and refereeing the matches. Our tournament ended with an awards ceremony with awards given for the winners, runner ups, and additional robot awards. Another successful season was officially a success.
As 2022 approached, Code Red, along with all the other FRC teams, was thrilled to be back to in-person competitions after COVID. The return to a normal season was not without its challenges, but Code Red fought to make it fun and successful regardless.
With seven students on the team, students were busy taking on multiple roles and learning a lot of new skills. Having a small team this year meant that team members were taking on multiple roles, which provided the bonus of learning and applying even more skills during the season. Our design and build season focused on building robot that could reliably score in the high goal of the new game for 2022, Rapid React. Our other objective was to climb and traverse all the way to the top. In the autonomous portion, our programmers set out to pick up a second game piece, then score both game pieces in the high goal. The final result was our robot, Apollo, capable of doing all of the tasks of the game.
Our first competition of the season was at Gull Lake. While we didn’t place as high as we had hoped and were eliminated in quarter final matches, we learned A LOT about our robot and how we could improve. Our debrief session after the competition prioritized making the shooter more accurate and making a functional climber. To work we went making those goals happen in preparation for our second event at Kentwood.
Arriving for our second event at Kentwood, the team felt optimistic and excited about what our improved robot could do. The shooting was reliable and as the competition progressed, we mastered a full climb and traverse to the top! Qualification matches ended with the team ranked 7th and a selection to be part of the 2nd Alliance.
Partnered with Twisted Devils (4381) and Red Storm (3875), we advanced our way through the playoffs to WIN the event!! It was a great turnaround from our first event and resulted in qualifying for the State Championship.
At the Michigan State Championship, Code Red enjoyed three days of competition and fun as a team. We played on the Consumers Energy field and ended playoff matches ranked 17. For Alliance selection, we were the first pick of the 7th alliance, but ended up getting eliminated in the quarter finals. It appeared that our season was over, as we were just under the qualifying mark for Worlds. However, there were a few teams above us who ended up declining to go to Worlds, which allowed Code Red to advance to the Championship in Houston, Texas. While we had mixed results at Worlds and were not selected for the playoffs, for a comeback year with only seven team members and three seniors on the team who had endured the COVID seasons, it was a satisfying and successful season.