Santa Clarita’s all-female robotics team took home awards at the local, regional and super regional level.
Made up of six high school students, the FTC Team 8496, or Heat it up and Keep it cool Robotics team, won the Inspire Award three times this season for its robot design, engineering notebook, community outreach, teamwork, professionalism and positivity both in and out of the robot arena.
“There was a lot of shock and disbelief — they sat there for a second in awe when their name was called for the award,” said Teresa Smalley, coach of the FTC Team 8496 and president Heat it up and Keep it cool Robotics. “We were quite surprised to have our name called for the Inspire Award.”
This marks the second year in a row that Heat it up and Keep it cool won the Inspire Award at the Los Angeles Regional Championship and at the West Super Regional Championship, making it an unprecedented feat for teams across the region.
“It was a big honor to win it two years in a row, It’s unheard of,” Smalley said. “This particular team really believes in what they’re doing so I think they were all quite shocked and quite ecstatic, and humbled and honored to have been given the award two years in a row.”
Currently in its eighth year, the team is active in Santa Clarita, where it competes in robotics while also mentoring other teams and speaking locally about robotics.
So far, the team has hosted 17 outreach events while running the junior robotics program for children ages 5 to 10 at the Santa Clarita Public Library.
“They had about 20 kids at the library,” Smalley said. “We divided them up into five groups and then the girls were divided into particular groups. They (the girls) designed the programs that they were doing with the groups and had to come up with the lesson plans for each group.”
In their different groups, the team members taught the children about basic programming and building skills and about teamwork and communication.
Heat it up and Keep it cool was also the host of its league in Santa Clarita, where team members worked with students at West Ranch High School to organize paperwork and act as robot inspectors and field inspectors.
“The girls worked as a team,” Smalley said. “As they were competing they were helping to run the league meet. It’s been a real busy year.”
The busy year began when Heat it up and Keep it cool started designing an original robot that can pick up 6-inch cubes and stack them and deliver plastic figurines to outside of the playing field.
“For us, it was a very difficult season as it took us three tries to come up with a design,” Smalley said. “On the third try, we ended up with something that completely shocked everyone.”
The final matrix/costume robot used a dual vacuum system that flipped 180 degrees to pick up foam cubes and deliver the plastic figurines 42 inches outside of the playing field.
The team also added a system that made a whistle sound when the robot made good contact picking up plastic figurines in the playing field.
“It’s a unique robot, it’s the only one of its kind,” Smalley said. “Being who we are we never like to copy people, we like to come up with our own design. They got lots of compliments on it for thinking outside of the box.”
The team’s innovative thinking was also a factor that propelled it to success at competitions this season.
In February, Heat it up and Keep it cool qualified for the Los Angeles Regional Championship after winning the Inspire Award at the Inter-League tournament.
At the Regional Championship, the team won the Inspire Award again and was named the winning alliance captain, meaning it was the top-seated robot and top-rated overall team.
“We won the whole deal,” Smalley said. “We won the finals in the robot captain and that was quite exciting for us, and then to also get the Inspire Award was pretty amazing.”
The team then went on to the West Super Regional Championship, where it competed against the top FIRST Tech Challenge Teams from 13 western states and Canada in Spokane, Wash.
Again, the team won the Inspire Award for robot design, engineering notebook, performance in the playing field, community outreach, teamwork and inclusivity.
Now, the team is preparing to compete at the World Championships in Houston in April, where Heat it up and Keep it cool will be competing against 126 FTC teams from around the world.
Members of Heat it up, Keep it cool:
- Stephanie A Ramirez, junior at Granada Hills Charter High School
- Olivia Teresa Smalley, senior at Academy of the Canyons
- TaylorAnne Morgan Brown, senior who is homeschooled through Mission College
- Amanda Sarah West, sophomore at Saugus High School
- Olivia Leolani Owen, junior at West Ranch High School
- Hae Na Lee, senior at West Ranch High School
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