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Rocklin robotics team enjoys competition, community

Tech Tofu gives 'RoboTalks'
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Interested in joining a team? Try FIRST TeamUp, a community-driven system that allows parents, coaches and mentors to connect with one another to form teams. For information, visit www.usfirst.org.

The FIRST Robotics Competition 2013 for high school students took place March 23 at the University of California, Davis, ARC Pavilion. Tech Tofu, a Rocklin robotics team, was invited to demonstrate at this event to create an interest in the field of robotics as well as to encourage participation in FIRST robotics programs for youth.

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, N.H., the not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. Founder Dean Kamen hoped “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."

FIRST has four main programs – Jr. FIRST Lego League (ages 6-9), FIRST Lego League (ages 9-14), FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition (high school students). These annual programs culminate in an international robotics competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path, according to www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms.

Tech Tofu, a participant in the FLL program, was invited to demonstrate at the FIRST Robotics Competition after winning the Innovative Solution Award and Kids’ Choice Coolest Project Award at the 2013 FLL Capital Championship. Team members Nathaniel Daniel and Ronak Brar had lots of fun showing off their robot to visiting families and encouraging them to start their own teams. They also picked up a tip or two on good robot design from the competing high school teams.

"We are going to have to design some really big robots if we participate in FRC in High School," Daniel said as he checked out the pit stations at the competitions.

Tech Tofu also participated in the nonprofit A Touch of Understanding’s Science Night on March 22 as part of the FLL Robotics Outreach. ATOU provides disability awareness programs designed to educate a new generation to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals, according to www.atouchofunderstanding.org.

Tech Tofu created a lot of excitement among the children who were captivated by the autonomous robot moving around on a themed mat, completing missions. Team members Daniel, Brar and Davin Nguyen were thrilled that they able to spark an interest in robotics in the kids at Science Night. ATOU staffer, Janani Suthahar, impressed by the positive response from the audience, has extended an invitation to Tech Tofu to come do a demonstration again soon.