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.