Robotics Teams Conquer 'Deep Space' Challenge

Mar 23, 2019

The FIRST Robotics Greater Pittsburgh Regional Competition featured 45 teams. The event also featured a self-driving Uber car and an industrial cleaning robot brought to campus by an alumnus.



These teams qualified for the FIRST® Championship, April 24-27 in Detroit, Mich.

Regional Champions: Team 48, Team E.L.I.T.E., Warren, Ohio; Team 3324, The Metrobots, Columbus, Ohio; Team 5842, Royal Robotics, New Port Richey, Fla.

Chairman's Award: Team 5811, BONDS, Dayton, Ohio

Rookie All Star Award: Team 7515, Dark Side Robotics, Parkersburg, W.Va.

Engineering Inspiration: Team 5740, Trojanators, Cranberry Township, Pa.

Wildcard qualifiers: Team 3504, Girls of Steel, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Team 4150 FRobotics, Murrysville, Pa.; Team 1787, Flying Circuits, Cleveland, Ohio.

For a complete list of winners, visit

For more information about FIRST®  Robotics, visit


Teams accept 'Space' Challenge

The challenges are always new at the FIRST® Robotics Greater Pittsburgh Regional Competition.

This year’s mission, DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE, was held March 21-23 at Cal U’s Convocation Center, the sixth year the event has been held at the University.

Teams used remote-controlled robots to gather as many cargo pods as possible in 2 minutes, 30 seconds and prepare their spaceships for departure before the next sandstorm.

The annual competition encourages high school students to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and math, along with project management, problem solving and teamwork.

The theme was announced in January. Teams had just six weeks to build their robots.

Dr. Jennifer Wilburn, an assistant professor in Cal U’s Department of Applied Engineering and Technology, has been a judge for the competition since 2014. 

She said this year’s game pushed students to investigate and apply new technologies. 

“As a judge, I look for a thorough engineering design process, and that the students are the driving force behind the design and build process,” said Wilburn, who is also the coordinator of Cal U’s four-year mechatronics engineering technology program. 

“I also look for innovative solutions, particularly those that perform promisingly in the field.” 

Brandon Snyder, a senior from Girard, Ohio, and a co-pilot for The RoboCats, said the addition of the “sandstorm” which eliminates vision except from the robot’s perspective, makes the game unique. He said it particularly increased his programming skills and camera knowledge.

“Instead of the first 15 seconds being all autonomous robot control, you can actually manually control your own robot,” he said. “You have to put a camera on the robot to give you vision of the field while you’re playing, which is a big difference.

“It’s a really fun game and because I’m the co-pilot and on the field often if something goes wrong I want to be able to fix that.”

In all, 45 teams from six different states competed.

Cal U President Geraldine M. Jones opened the competition on Friday with welcoming remarks.

“I am eager to see how far your creativity and technical skill will take each of your teams,” she said.

The weekend included a display of a self-driving car from Uber, a ride-sharing transportation company.

It also included a 900-pound commercial cleaning robot from Discovery Robotics, located in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Alumnus Leonard Verdetto, who majored in robotics and mechatronics engineering technology, said the Convocation Center provided a unique testing environment for the machine.

“We want to see how it performs specific tasks in a variety of environments. I suggested Cal U because of the robotics and mechatronics programs and because of the venue.”

Sydney Gillen, a freshman on the Avi and Friends team from Sylvania, Ohio, summed up the experience as she charted her team’s opponents’ match schedules.

Involved mainly with the non-technical aspects of the competition, she found the experience to be gratifying.

“No matter what you do in this program you are going to learn something that you will use the rest of your life,” she said.