FTC: Annapolis-Qualifier Results

Posted Thursday, 17th January 2013

All three teams competed in the Annapolis qualifier for the Maryland State Competition last Saturday (January 12th). The competition started out rough for Domini Machinae (5225) and the RoboFoxes (4451). Domini Machinae had electrical failures. The RoboFoxes were having trouble controlling their robot. Both teams improved during the second half. Team Rocket, as team 5014 decided to call themselves, did very well, and ended up placing 3rd in the qualifying rounds. They chose Domini Machinae as one of their alliances partners. The RoboFoxes were also chosen to be part of the 4th alliance, but lost in the first round. Team Rocket and Domini Machinae made it to the final round against G-Force and the TechnoClovers. They lost, but their place as Finalist Captain and Finalist First Alliance Partner won them a place in the state competition. The RoboFoxes won the 3rd place Inspire Award, which means they also qualified for the state competition. We are very excited that all three teams qualified, and are looking forward to the State Competition on Feb 23rd at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. In the meantime, we will be preparing and practicing for the Pennsylvania qualifier in York, Penn on January 19th.

Sidwell DC Qualifier

Posted Thursday, 17th January 2013

On December 9th, we hosted the DC Qualifier for the Maryland State Competition at Sidwell. The event was a huge success! Teams came from all over DC, Maryland, and Virginia to compete. Members of all three of Sidwell's teams volunteered and a few older members acted as referees.
Many thanks to Sidwell for letting us host and to the Spangler family for helping us set up!

FTC Season Comes to a Close

Posted Thursday, 17th January 2013

On March 3rd, 2012 the First Tech Challenge at Sidwell came to a close after our last competition, the Virginia State Championship. Our teams played well, and both Daedalus and RoboFoxes were alliance captains. Unfortunately, none of our teams qualified for Worlds. Overall, it was a great season, and we're looking forward to 2012 MATE and FTC next year. Go Sidwell! See the news page for more information about our three state-level competitions.

Delaware State

Unfortunately, none of our teams placed highly at the Delaware competition. There were many tall scissor lifts, some over 12 feet tall!

Maryland State

At the Maryland State Championship, the RoboFoxes were in the winning alliance with the 4-H Techno Clovers and G-Force. Although the RoboFoxes didn't qualify for worlds because they were the second pick for the alliance, it was a great experience for everyone. Daedalus earned 6th place at the end of the qualifier round.

Virginia State

RoboFoxes: 3rd Place alliance head on Piedmont division, 1st place Engineering Notebook award

Daedalus: 4th Place alliance head on Blueridge Division

FTC: NOVA-Qualifier Results

Posted Friday, 27th January 2012

Last Saturday (1/21/12), all three of our teams travelled to Annandale, VA to compete in the Northern Virginia FTC Qualifier. At the competition, our three teams (the RoboFoxes, Daedalus, and Domini Machinae) performed excellently and won a victory together as alliance members in the final round. As the winning alliance, all three of our teams have qualified for the Virginia State-level FTC competition to be held on March 3rd at the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Athletic Center in Richmond, VA.

FTC: DC-Qualifier Results

Posted Sunday, 18th December 2011

This saturday (12/17) all three of our FTC teams, Team Daedalus, Domini Machinae, and the RoboFoxes, participated in the Washington DC FTC Qualifier for the Maryland State competition. Two of the three teams, Daedalus and the RoboFoxes, will continue on to the Maryland State competition. The trophies awarded are as follows:

RoboFoxes: 1st place award, 1st place inspire award, think award
Daedalus: 2nd place inspire award
Domini Machinae: award for best community outreach

Read more on the news page.

Team Daedalus did very well overall after a slow start in their first couple matches because of problems with wireless connection and their autonomous program, earning fourth place out of 15 teams for the qualifying round. Domini Machinae also performed exceptionally well in all of their matches with a very strong autonomous program and a consistent strategy for the controlled peroid, earning first place. Although their lifting mechanism didn?t work as well as they had hoped, the RoboFoxes? autonomous program gave them many points and they were able to use a new strategy of moving stacks to score third place in the qualifying round.

In the Elimination Round, Domini Machinae allied with Team Daedalus and the Robofoxes allied with Team 4452, the Wolverines. Both alliances won their initial matches against the other two final alliances, and competed against each other in the final round. After three very close matches and one rematch, the RoboFoxes alliance defeated Team Daedalus and Domini Machinae, making themselves one of five teams who will advance to the State Competition. The Robofoxes also won the Inspire Award. Team Daedalus was the runner-up winner of the award, meaning they will also advance to the Maryland State Competition. Domini Machinae did not qualify for the Maryland State Competition, but they played remarkably well and will hopefully advance in later qualifiers (Virginia and Delaware).

Middle School FLL Competition

Posted Thursday, 8th December 2011

Our two Middle School robotics teams competed in a qualifying competition on Saturday at The Woods Academy. Although neither team amassed enough points to move ahead in the competition, everyone worked hard and learned a lot! The "Quaker Oats" (7/8) team and "Sidwell Friendzy" (5/6) team would like to thank mentors Sara Jane Harris and Gus Bessalel for their help this season.

USA Science Engineering Festival!

Posted Thursday, 17th January 2013

Sidwell Friends Robotics is proud to be an Official Partner of the 2nd USA Science & Engineering Festival to be held in the greater Washington DC area in April 2012. Check out the following link for more details:

Sidwell Robotics Fields Three Teams!

Posted Thursday, 17th January 2013

4451, 5014, and 5225! This year Sidwell Friends School is planning on fielding three complete individual teams for the First Tech Challenge robotics competition! Read more on the news page!

After an extremely successful first year at the FTC competition, Sidwell Robotics has grown quite a bit. Students from all grades are joining the teams, the robotics lab is refurbished, and the computer lab is equipped with new computers. Surely this will be a great season! To find out more about the 2011-2012 FTC competition, visit

Sidwell Robotics Makes Top 10!

Posted Wednesday, 22nd June 2011

Final scores from the international MATE ROV competition have been released, and Sidwell got 10th place with a total score of 428/500 points! See the news page for the score break down.

A teams final score is the sum of the mission, technical report, engineering interview, and poster scores.

Sidwell scored 255/300 points on the mission part of the competition, which is tops our regional score of 210 points. For more information, see the article titled "Day 3 Mission and International Competition Results."

Our team placed 5th on our technical report with a score of 74.5/80 points. The technical report is a write up that captures the design, building practice, and other work done to complete the robot. Our 2011 technical report can be found here.

The engineering interview was the third part that contributed to our overall score. Overall, Sidwell placed 11th with a score of 73.00 points. The full interview can be seen here on our YouTube channel.

The final part of the competition that was scored, was the team poster. Sidwell only placed 21st with a poster score of 25.5 on the poster. Next year, we will definitely shoot for a higher score here, and it shouldn't be too difficult to do.

Although 10th place didn't allow our team to bring home any trophies, we are tremendously proud to have earned it out of over 450 teams though hours, days, weeks, and months of work. Thank you so much to everyone for the support, and we hope to see you next year! Go Sidwell Robotics!

Day 3 Mission and International Competition Results

Posted Sunday, 19th June 2011

Sidwell took the pool for a 2nd time on Saturday, trying to improve upon its solid first-round score of 255. The team went for a slightly different approach after yesterday's tangling issue, hooking the carabiner (task 1 part 2) before removing the velcro (task 1 part 1). This plan resulted in quicker placement of the carabiner and removal of the velcro tab from the broken pipe, but didn't quite solve the underlying problem. The team was unable to remove the ring on the velcro tab from its front manipulator, and as the tab is attached to the riser pipe that Sidwell needed to bring to the surface, it was unable to remove the riser pipe. Sidwell opted not to surface, a move that in retrospect may have cost the team points, but one that was difficult at the time. Read more on the news page!

Sidwell did manage to remove the tab from itself after time-consuming shaking and jerking movements, but in the process it accidentally dislodged the killswitch (the T) from its holder. Without a plan for picking up the T from the bottom of the pool, the team had to improvise, and try to somehow pick it up. They cleverly managed to tangle the string attached to the T on its front manipulator by spinning it, acquiring the T in an awkward way, but a way nonetheless. This position, however, left Sidwell unable to place the T and consequently unable to turn the wheel, costing Sidwell too many point for them to be able to beat their previous score of 255. Since only the best score of the two counts, the rest of the round proved irrelevant. Still, Sidwell collected a (very) diluted water sample, earning them 75 of 80 points, and picked up 1 critter (and dropping it), earning them 5 more points. This gave Sidwell a total of around 175 for the day, a respectable but not improving score.

A number of other teams improved their scores in round 2, although it is still unknown how many and by how much. After round 1 Sidwell was in 8th place in the competition phase, with 3 teams earning perfect scores (>300). It's also unknown how well Sidwell did in the presentation, technical report, and poster phases, although the team felt good about its performance.

In the awards ceremony, Sidwell didn't take home any awards. While the team was somewhat disappointed that it didn't take home any subjective awards, it was overall very happy with its performance, especially the fact that it improved on its dominating performance at the regional in Philadelphia, PA. The overall victors were Aptos HS, with Competition phase champions Ozaukee HS, who finished all the tasks in a blistering 8 1/2 minutes, coming in 2nd. The team certainly had fun at the banquet, which was an italian themed feast.

Tomorrow the team will tour NASA headquarters before boarding a plane back to DC! Thanks to everyone for your wonderful support, and we're excited to maintain our enthusiasm next year!

International Competition Day 3

Posted Saturday, 18th June 2011

As the team arose for competition on this fine Houston Saturday morning, an aura of success was noticeable in the air. The team arrived at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at 8:45, 15 minutes before the first teams of the day took the pool. About half the teams ran both their runs on Friday, but their scores are not currently being shown, more info to come as we learn where we stand at the moment. Read more on the news page.

The poolside team is currently doing its final preparations for its second run. Their efforts have been focused on developing contingency plans, as the team has witnessed a number of problems that teams, including our own, have had, and witnessed teams floundering under the pressure. In the team's first run, they experienced initial trouble with the carabiner line getting tangled in the robot. They also witnessed a number of teams dropping the killswitch, and they have developed plans to deals with both such potential problems. While it could be difficult to make a perfect score with a major problem, we hope to make it a possibility by implementing effective backup plans.

The team had a lot of fun last night, taking a trip to electronics mega-store "Fry's Electronics" and eating at a vintage Texas barbecue pit, Ryan's Smokehouse. Still, the team is well-rested and ready to go.

On a side note, "I hate iPhoto," says Raymond Jacobson.

First Mission Attempt Results

Posted Friday, 17th June 2011

Sidwell Robotics scored 255/300 points during our first mission run. This puts our team around the top 1/3rd of the contestants here, but everything is still subject to change. Every team gets a second try (ours is tomorrow at 10:00AM), and each teams BEST score is counted. The total score awarded to each team is a combination of interview, poster, and mission scores, so even if our team doesn't score the most during the mission phase, we still have a good shot! For the rest of the day, the team will be relaxing at the pool and visiting the local electronic superstore, Fry's. Thanks to all the parents and friends back home for the support!

Interview Success Motivates Team

Posted Friday, 17th June 2011

Thanks to the hours of practice the team did last night at the hotel, it went great. In a conference room at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL), our team explained our robot's structural design, process in which it was built, and why certain decisions were made. Furthermore, each team member presented with lucidity while keeping in mind our overarching theme of simplicity. Read more on the news page.

Last night, after our first run-through of our interview in front of judges Darby Thompson and Jon Mormino, we were in bad shape. "I'd give that a 'D'," said Mr. Mormino, after a choppy, boring first presentation. Through hours of team cooperation and collective help, our 'D' became an 'A' after our interview this morning. As the company CFO, Sam Stevens ('11), explains, "In the face of stiff competition, Sidwell Robotics is standing strong." Despite our rocky hotel room start, our team was able to perform excellently.

Our three judges were wonderful, and didn't ask us any particular hardball questions, so the team was able to use the opportunity to shine. "You guys did a really great job," one of the judges said as our team was exiting.

Next, the team is preparing to compete at 1:00pm in the NBL pool (the largest indoor pool in the world). Due to our interview success, the team is psyched and ready to also impress the mission judges.

Houston We Have a Problem!

Posted Thursday, 16th June 2011

During our teams first test run at the Johnson NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab this afternoon, everything started well. N.A.R.W.H.A.L. (our robot) was neutrally buoyant, and it's pressure sensor was working fine. However, our excitement was put to an end when we realized that somehow the USB plug on our Logitech Dual Action Gamepad was damaged and would not fit into the laptop running our program. Because of this, the robot couldn't be driven. Luckily, the local electronic superstore, Fry's, had what we needed. Read more on the news page.

Frantically, the entire team worked together to try to unbend the damaged plug, but after our 15 minute testing session was up, the USB connection still wasn't working. A maybe slightly better prepared team would have had a backup, but our backup was broken during testing earlier in the week.

After the 15 minute time period, the team quickly broke up into three groups and went on a Houston hunt for a new controller. Radioshack, Gamestop, Gamesplus, two Best Buys, Office Depot, Staples, and Toys R Us didn't have the Logitech controller we needed. Luckily, the last place we called, Fry's (perhaps the largest electronic store anyone on the team has ever seen) had not only what we needed, but pretty much anything else a robotics team could ever need. At Fry's the team purchased two controllers, and we are set for competition tomorrow. Thank you Fry's!

The Dawn of Team "Sidwell Friends Robotics"

Posted Wednesday, 25th May 2011

The Pennsylvania Regional MATE ROV Competition on May 21st at Villanova ended successfully for both the Varsity RoboPenguins and the JV RoboQuakers, as the teams came in first and second place, respectively. Typically, the top two teams at each regional competition qualify for the international one. However, because Sidwell earned first and second place, and the same school is not permitted to send two teams, the Varsity and JV teams will be merging for the international competition. This new combined team, named Sidwell Friends Robotics, will bring the Varsity robot (codenamed N.A.R.W.H.A.L.) to the competition on June 16th.

This Was a Triumph: Huge Success

Posted Saturday, 21st May 2011

Both teams, the Varsity RoboPenguins and the Junior Varsity RoboQuakers, were successful at the Pennsylvania Regional MATE ROV Competition at Villanova University. The RoboPenguins earned first place overall, and the RoboQuakers earned second. As a result, a combination of members from both teams will take the RoboPenguins' robot to the MATE ROV International Competition in Houston, Texas from June 16th to 18th.

In addition to receiving the first place title, the RoboPenguins also earned: the first place award for points scored in the mission period of the competition, honorable mention in the elegance award category for our robot's simplicity, and second place for our technical report (thanks to two Sidwell junior girls, Charlotte and Celeste, who helped edit our report).

Not to be outdone by the success of the RoboPenguins, the Junior Varsity team performed excellently. Winning second place overall, the team also earned the trophy for second most points scored during the mission phase and the award for the second best team poster. The achievements of the RoboQuakers were outstanding, and the progress the team made in the last week before the tournament was impressive.

Thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors, family, friends, and most importantly our mentor Darby Thompson. Without Darby, not only would the team not have done as well, but the entire robotics program at Sidwell would not exist.

Villanova Matches Over

Posted Saturday, 21st May 2011

At the moment, both teams, the Varsity RoboPenguins and the Junior Varsity RoboQuakers, await results from the competition. Both teams had successful 15 minute matches. The RoboPenguins scored a total of 210/300 points, and the RoboQuakers scored a total of 120 points. No awards other than the T-Shirt award have been given, but both teams are entering the award ceremony confident in their robot's respective performances.

Dream-Weaving War Comes to an End

Posted Sunday, 24th April 2011

After a couple of solid months of work, the team's website designers Raymond Jacobson and Justin Lau have completed the first step in the Robotics website design process: getting something online. Although much work still needs to be done, the two Sidwell juniors have succeeded in their endeavors, and put up a functioning website!
In early March, both Raymond and Justin began working intensely on developing the HTML code for the site. After a couple weeks though, little progress had been made due to disagreement on a basic site layout.  However, by the time mid-March came around, the two settled on a plan and began coding.

The general layout was relatively easy and required little time, but smaller details and site content are what took the majority of the two months. Eventually though, enough content was created, and the site was packaged and put up online.

US Robotics Team Makes No. 2 Seed in State Championship Division

Posted Tuesday, 15th February 2011

The Upper School robotics team, ?RoboFoxes,? had a phenomenal performance this weekend at the FIRST Tech Challenge Virginia State Championship at the University of Virginia. The team made it through qualifying rounds, ending up as the No. 2 seed in the harder of two divisions totaling 42 teams.

Unfortunately, the No. 1 team in the division squeaked out a close victory in a best of three series to advance to the national tournament. The scores of the three games in the semi-finals were 51-75 (loss), 84-55 (win), and 89-95 (loss).

The team had some spectacular matches throughout the day, said US computer science teacher and team advisor Darby Thompson, with two of their scores in the top three game scores of the entire day. The RoboFoxes, named after the Religious Society of Friends founder George Fox, were awarded Piedmont Division Finalist medals.

The team is now directing its energy towards MATE ROV, an exciting new underwater robotics competition run by the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center.

Robotics Teams Qualify for State Tournaments

Posted Wednesday, 2nd February 2011

Two of Sidwell?s robotics teams ? one comprised of fourth and fifth graders and the other of Upper School students ? earned first place finishes on Saturday in their respective tournaments. Both teams will now advance to state championships.

The fourth and fifth graders of the team ?The Nights of the Round Pillow? earned first place in teamwork at the FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on Saturday. The students also achieved the second highest score in robot performance, which is a triumph for one of the youngest teams at the competition.

The team is made up of seven fourth graders and three fifth graders. Their work as a team was most evident when they were running the robot, sharing strategy moves, and supporting each other as partners took their turns, according to LS technology director Jenni Swanson Voorhees, who leads the team with LS science teacher Sam Francis. The Nights will move forward to the Maryland State Tournament at the end of February, along with the BotBoyz, the School?s sixth, seventh, and eighth grade robotics team.

The Upper School team, ?RoboFoxes,? came in first place in the FIRST Tech Challenge Northern Virginia Qualifier. This was the team?s first year competing in the tournament, and US computer science teacher and team advisor Darby Thompson noted what an exciting accomplishment it is for a rookie team to win. The RoboFoxes won the PTC Design Award and the Winning Alliance Award and will head to the state championship later this month.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology, and math while fostering self-confidence and communication and leadership skills.

Congratulations to all students involved!