The Boulan Park Middle School Broncos took first place at the statewide FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship held in Marshall, Michigan on December 21. The team qualified for states after competing in and winning the fall regional championship. These middle school aged Broncos, as well as their Boulan Park counterpart Mustangs team, were sponsored by Oakland University's School of Engineering and Computer Science and OU INC. These young teams competed against 7th to 12th graders to design, build and program robots to compete against and collaborate with robotics teams from other schools. The teams were able to develop their robots and practice at OU INC on the university's campus. The Mustangs, a new team coached by Oakland Engineering professor Dr. Khalid Mirza, also earned the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award in the fall.
The competition, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), allows students to work on every aspect of the robotics process, from finding sponsorship to programming and manning the robot. The challenge includes many different aspects of engineering, as the robot must do a variety of actions, such as move blocks, raise a flag, and even grip and hang from a bar. Judges not only look at the innovation and thought that is put into the robot, but the process of creating it as well. Involvement and effort is noted.
Mirza believes that Oakland University's affiliation and sponsorship of these young engineers fits well with the university's goals for the future. "These teams encourage engineering and science, so we thought that this was in line with what [Oakland University] is promoting."