As is our yearly practice, Next Robotics Generation (NRG) held two different sessions in 2023: a summer camp session in June, and a full season in the fall. Our summer camp session featured the game Block Battle, Code Red’s newest NRG game developed by our FRC students that features pushing blocks up a ramp to score on a scale with the goal of “owning the scale”.  For our fall season, Code Red FRC students revisited a previous game they created, Pyramid Puzzle, and evaluated how to improve the game.  We added an “autonomous” period to the game in the form of a driving challenge, and we tweaked some of the scoring from the first time we ran the game.

As the NRG seasons began, first time students were excited to build their own Arduino robots, then design and add a manipulator to the robot that could push game elements and score all while following the rules of the game laid out in the game manual.  Students got creative with materials like coroplast, legos, and scrap pieces of aluminum to make pushers of various shapes and sizes.  Some students even designed 3D printed pushers for their robotsSeveral 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. 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.

For both of our NRG seasons in 2023, we were maxed out at 25 students for summer camp and 30 students in the fall.  For the first time, we had to start a waiting list as well, indicating the need to grow NRG so that we can accommodate the increased interest in the program as well as the FLL students coming up through Code Red’s programs.  Thus, we are determining what is needed to expand NRG to facilitate two groups meeting at the same time and how to run a tournament with additional students.  This will involve recruiting additional mentors and building additional fields for our games.  While it is a new challenge for NRG, it is a good challenge to have, and we are excited about the future of the program.