Us First Robotics

The PTR Group believes that US FIRST Robotics  represents an important investment in our efforts to develop engineers and scientists for a new generation. To that end, we directly sponsor and provide mentors to five separate teams around the country.  Our employees freely give of their time and expertise to help guide the students in the ways of professional engineering approaches.  These efforts resulted in many of our team’s students receiving scholarships to STEM-related programs at various universities around the nation.

The competition, promoted by renowned innovator Dean Kamen, is an international program to challenge youths in a technical and social venue. The nature of the competition is kept secret until the kick-off day in early January.  Teams are then given six weeks to design, build, and test their robot, so the ability to manage time and resources is a large part of the project.  The teams then compete in one to three regional competitions and attempt to qualify for a berth to the national competition.  US FIRST encourages a productive, pedagogic environment in which all teams prosper through the help and guidance of the collective experience.  PTR is proud to provide facilities, financial support and technical expertise to enhance that experience.  Our teams are:

Team 116, Epsilon Delta, Herndon HS / NASA HQ, Herndon, VA

As one of only 200 beta-test teams in the U.S. for the 2015 controls system, Team 116 was awarded a singular opportunity to help test and debug the control system prior to it being delivered to the rest of the teams in January.  As an evangelist for the new Linux-based controller, Team 116 did several outreach events to teams in the D.C./Baltimore area to demonstrate and explain the new controls and their operation.  This included presenting to the D.C. area FIRST workshop at George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA where dozens of FRC teams got their first look at the 2015 controls. 

In 2015, Team 116 competed in both the Orlando and Washington, D.C. regionals.  Our showing in Orlando was middle of the pack.  However, this experience gave us valuable insight into the issues associated with our design and helped us focus our energy to address the shortcomings of the original design.  As a result, Team 116 made it to the final round at the D.C. regional were we lost both games by a single game piece each.  Nonetheless, Team 116 was able to demonstrate what an experienced drive team could do even when using a middle-of-the-pack design approach.  In addition, Team 116 won the Gracious Professionalism award at the D.C. regional for our aid to fellow teams both in electrical wiring and hardware expertise to enable them to repair their robots and take the field.

Throughout 2015 Team 116 was involved in a number of major outreach events including the Smithsonian Museum’s Air and Scare Halloween event and a technology demonstration event at the Air and Space Museum in downtown D.C.  In addition to these events, the team attended several Maker Fairs in the area, supported the NoVa Labs fund raising event and visited several elementary schools to demonstrate the robot and generate interest in STEM-related fields. 

PTR CTO/Chief Scientist Mike Anderson is a mentor to the team.


Team 620, The Warbots, James Madison HS, Vienna, VA

2015 proved to be an interesting year for Team 620.  The new Linux-based control system presented both many opportunities as well as many challenges.  Problems plagued the drive system with several inopportune failures at key places in the matches.  Competing at both the D.C. and Ohio regionals, Team 620 was unable to shake out the drive system problems and finished in the middle of the pack at both competitions.  However, the drive team was able to gain valuable experience using a previously untried Mecanum drive train that allows full 360 degree range of motion without needing to physically turn the robot.

In addition, the new control system afforded an opportunity to move forward into the multi-core Linux world which gave Team 620’s software squad the ability to experiment with multiple new sensor arrays that will be valuable in future seasons.  So, while the 2015 season itself was not as successful as we would have liked, we are looking forward to taking the lessons learned and coming back stronger than ever in 2016.

PTR Employee Don May acts as a mentor to the team.


Team 1296, Robo-Jackets, Rockwall HS, Rockwall TX

The 2015 season saw a great opportunity to think out of the box for Team 1296.  Because no defense was needed in this year’s game, we were free to create a two-piece robot that had one piece stacking crates and the other placing recycling containers on them.  This combination led to us winning the Alamo Regional in San Antonio as the #1 seeded alliance, thereby winning an opportunity to attend the World Championships in St. Louis.

In St. Louis, we competed well in our division.  However, our two robot pieces (named Jake and Elwood) suffered from a hard-fought season to date.  Several key failures led to a middle-of-the-pack finish in the division and ended our chase of a spot on the final Einstein competition field.  However, the team had a great time in St. Louis and we thank PTR Group for their continued sponsorship of the team.

PTR Consultant Keith Buchanan acts as a mentor to the team.


Team 2537, Space RAIDers, Atholton HS, Columbia MD

From a disappointing 2013 season, Team 2537 was in a rebuilding mode where we stopped focusing so much on the robot itself and started focusing on the FIRST mission.  To that end, we have successfully worked to start several FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams as well as a successful outreach program into the elementary schools in the area to help bring STEM awareness to the younger students.  A new business plan was developed in 2014 and a complete rebranding of the team as the new Space RAIDers led us to win the Entrepreneurship Award at the D.C. regionals in both 2014 and 2015.  See our 2015 mission video here:

The D.C. regionals saw Team 2537 make the elimination rounds where we got to the quarter finals before being eliminated.  Taking the experience from the D.C. match, we then went on to the Chesapeake Regional and had a strong showing again making it all the way to the quarter finals.  We wish to thank Mr. Anderson and Team 116 for bringing by the new controls system and helping us spin up on the new technology for the 2015 season.

PTR CTO/Chief Scientist Mike Anderson is a mentor to the team.


Team 5338, RoboLoCo, Monroe Technology Center, Leesburg, VA

In only its second year of existence, Loudoun County’s only FRC team has seen tremendous growth and excellent success.  Starting in 2014, Team 5338 is based at the Monroe Tech Center in Leesburg, VA.  Here, Dr. Mike Tomlinson and a crew of dedicated mentors helped to bring in students from all over the county as a magnet program for robotics.  We won the Rookie Award at the D.C. Regional in 2014 and made the elimination rounds in D.C. in 2015.

However, it was our story from the Knoxville, TN Region that made us famous (err.. sort of at least).  Having won the NASA Innovation Award in Knoxville for our robot’s control system, we won a slot to the World Championship in St. Louis.  That was Saturday and we stayed the night in Knoxville with the plan to drive back to Leesburg on Sunday.  However, our vehicle (with our tools and the robot) was stolen from the hotel parking lot sometime during the night.  Despite the best efforts of the local police, we were unable to locate the vehicle or the robot.  This meant that we had to fall back on the incomplete practice robot for the competition in St. Louis.

Fortunately, with the help of several local teams including Team 1885 and Team 116, we were able to get the practice robot working enough to get to the competition.  Additionally, thanks to the publicity associated with the theft, we were the recipient of a fantastic show of support from the FIRST community and our local sponsors.  We made it to St. Louis and finished 22nd in our division of 72 teams.  This was an outstanding effort from everyone involved.

Additionally, on a brighter note, the publicity of the theft in the local Knoxville area resulted in the original robot and control hardware being left on the side of the road and a tip to the local police recovered the robot and much of our robot-related components.  So, our original robot was returned to us intact and in good condition.  It was too late for St. Louis, but it was great to get the robot that we had invested so much time into back home.

PTR CTO/Chief Scientist Mike Anderson provides guidance and helps with the team.