All posts by Ted Matthias

Enter the “Name the Wildcat Robot” Contest!

Our first robot for the 2013-14 season was nicknamed “The Bull”. However, over the last two months, the robot has changed it’s appearance quite a bit so it no longer resembles a bull! We will be going to the Massachusetts State Championships with an unnamed robot! Therefore, we are in a quandry: what to name the new robot?

Here’s where YOU come in. Please help us to name our new robot! The details are as follows:

  • In Wednesday’s Assembly (Feb. 19), the Williston Wildcat Robotics Team will announce the “Name the Wildcat Robot Contest”!
  • The contest will start on Wed, Feb 19 and run through Sun, Feb 23;
  • Students will submit robot names via email to Matt Cavanaugh’s address:;
  • On Mon, Feb 24, the top three names, as decided by the Robotics Team, will be posted and students will vote for their favorite (via SurveyMonkey);
  • On Wed, Feb 26, we will announce the winner in that morning’s Assembly.

The winner will receive a $15 gift card to Tandem and our undying thanks for helping us to bring the States title home to Williston!

The “Block Party!” FTC Competition

Want to know more about the details of the 2013-14 FTC Challenge? Read on…

All teams registered for the 2013-14 FTC season compete in the same robotics challenge. The object of the challenge is to score more points than your randomly chosen opponents. Points are given for completing various tasks within a 12-foot by 12-foot playing field. (click the image for a larger view)

FTC Playing Field

Four robots compete at the same time in each match. Two robots are controlled by each “alliance”: the red alliance and the blue alliance. The red and blue alliances battle against each other to score the highest number of match points.

Each alliance is made up of two randomly chosen teams. The paring of alliance teams changes with each match so your alliance partner in the first match may be your opponent in the second match!

Matches last 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Alliances control their robots in two different ways within this time. During the first 30 seconds (the “autonomous” period), robots run via programs created and preloaded by the team. In the remaining 2 minutes after the autonomous period, robots are controlled via “tele-op” using a game controller communicating with the robot over a wireless network.

Match points can be scored in a number of ways. Alliances capture yellow plastic blocks with their robot and put them into baskets attached to a pendulum on the center ramp in the playing field. Points are given for each block placed in a basket. If, at the end of the match, your alliance’s pendulum is balanced, additional points are awarded. (click the image for a larger view)



Additional high-value scoring opportunities exist within the playing field during the last 30 seconds of each match. The first opportunity is raising the Alliance Flag. If an alliance robot can raise the Alliance Flag by spinning the flag raiser bar, 30 points are awarded. The second opportunity is having your robot hang on the Hanging Bar. If your robot can hang from the bar across the center of the ramp without touching the ramp, 50 points are awarded to the alliance.

More information about the scoring opportunities  in the “Block Party!” challenge can be found in THIS one-page (PDF) summary sheet. You can also view an animation explaining the game HERE (advance to the 2:17 time mark).

 HERE is a video of a match in an FTC competition.

Gracious Professionalism

The FIRST Tech Challenge high school robotics program was founded by Dean Kamen, creator of the Segway and other ground-breaking inventions. His foundation, FIRST ( For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) supports robotics competitions around the world, from elementary school programs to college level robotics.

The guiding principle of all the FIRST competitions is “Gracious Professionalism”. It is a call for competitors to rise above their own individual and team focus. From the FIRST website:

Dr. Woodie FlowersFIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term “Gracious Professionalism®.

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.”

Gracious Professionalism is taken to heart by Williston Wildcat Robotics. The team recently decided to give up their spot in the February 8th Qualifying Tournament at The Ursuline Academy to allow another team to try to qualify for the States Championship. Since the Wildcats have already qualified for States, they felt (unanimously) that the spirit of Gracious Professionalism compelled them to make this decision and wish the very best for all the teams in the two remaining Qualifiers.

Wildcat Robotics Advances to Massachusetts State Championships

For the second year in a row, Williston Wildcat Robotics has secured a berth in the 2014 FIRST Tech Challenge Massachusetts State Championships! Williston placed first in a field of 40 other New England schools competing in the new FTC Scrimmage format. Full Scrimmage results can be found HERE.

This year, introduced a Scrimmage format in addition to the existing Qualifier format. In the Scrimmage format, FTC Teams compete in up to 5 Scrimmage events and the total Qualifying Points from each team’s best two events determine their ranking. The top two teams from the Scrimmage format advance to the State Championships.

Williston Wildcat Robotics narrowly beat out the second place 2 Bits and a Byte team from Lexington High School. While our Qualifying points ended in a tie, the difference was determined by each team’s Ranking Points. Ranking Points are accrued through various scorning opportunities within each match.

Event though Williston has won a berth at States, the team will be traveling to a second Qualifying event at The Ursuline Academy on February 8th to further refine our robot and the skill of its drivers. It will also give us an opportunity to strike terror in the hearts of our competition.

The Massachusetts State Championships will be held on March 1st at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA.

The Competitions Begin!


On Saturday, January 18, the intrepid Williston Wildcat Robotics Team set out at 5:15 am in the dark and the snow to compete in the FTC Challenge Qualifying Tournament in Arlington, MA. Eighteen high school teams from the northeast converged on Arlington High School in the snow and slush.

The Wildcats faced a number of challenges during the day. The robot (“The Bull”) required a few changes to optimize its performance. Our Team worked feverishly in the pits to modify the software to compliment the hardware improvements that we made. We were also pitted against a number of teams with robots that had already qualified for the State Tournament and had many competitions under their belt.


Williston Wildcat Robotics hung in there refusing to be pushed too far down in the ranking. At the end of the Qualifier, the Wildcats place 13th out the 18-team field. We learned a great deal from this competition and have already started the list of improvements for The Bull!

Future competitions for the Wildcats are:
– Scrimmage at the Chickering Elementary School, 29 Cross St, Dover, Mass. on January 25*
– Final Qualifying Tournament at Ursuline Academy (Dedham, MA) on February 8

 *Please note the new location as of 1/23/14 is Chickering Elementary, not Dover High School.