Lee’s Summit West High School’s Team Titanium recently returned from a trip to China that included a robotics workshop and competition as well as time for sightseeing. The LSWHS team members were among 14 international teams and 63 Chinese teams participating in two days of qualifying matches with Team Titanium and their alliance team winning the international portion of the tournament.
During May the LSWHS team was invited by the China Urban Youth Robotics Alliance (CUYRA) to send several representatives to Zhengzhou, Henan, China. The CUYRA organization is spreading the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program to schools across China. Fourteen international teams were invited to assist the new Chinese teams in building their robots and learning about the FIRST program during the workshop.
Nine LSW students, three coaches and four adult mentors traveled to China July 18 and returned July 30. They worked directly with Chinese students from the Zhengzhou area. This was the fourth year that a summer workshop was held for newly formed teams in China, but the first year it was held in this area.
The final day of competition included an elimination tournament including both Chinese and International teams, then an elimination tournament was held including only Chinese teams. During the qualification matches, Team Titanium wowed the crowd with its highly accurate ball-shooting robot, winning all seven qualification matches and seeding first overall. Based on scouting statistics and analysis, Barker Redback Robotics from Sydney Australia was selected to join the No. 1 alliance, along with two teams from China. This alliance put up the high score of the tournament during their first elimination match, and remained undefeated to win the tournament.
On the way to Zhengzhou, the group took advantage of a long layover and enjoyed a one-day tour of Beijing including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China.
The 14 international teams, including teams from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Virginia, New York, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Washington, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Missouri, participated in a two-night sightseeing excursion to the Shaolin Temple on Songshan Mountain (the birthplace of Chinese martial arts and Zen Buddhism), Longmen Grottos, Terra Cotta Warriors, Huaqing Hot Springs and Palace and Xi’an. Activities included watching a Kung Fu exhibition, touring a Chinese art museum, taking a Chinese calligraphy class, visiting the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an and traveling via high speed (305 km/hr) trains.
The international group returned to Zhengzhou to help teams complete their robots and to compete in the China Robotics Challenge (CRC) at the Zhengzhou International Convention Center. This 166,800-square-meter facility, adjacent to the hotel where the international teams were staying, had 12 large exhibit halls and many meeting rooms. This area of China was experiencing a heat wave with temperatures up to 108 degrees during the visit, and air conditioning was not sufficient to cool the facility with indoor temperatures in the 90s for the practice day.
A few of the tournament volunteers were from the international teams. Team Titanium coaches and mentors volunteered for several of the lead roles including Nancy Spatz as field supervisor, Michael Hartwig as lead robot inspector, Aaron Bailey as control system advisor and Phanna Cea as field repair and reset. Team Titanium presented four of the 14 conferences for the Chinese teams including LabView Programming by Aaron Bailey, Mechanical Design by Jeff Spatz, Scouting and Strategy by Aaron Bailey and student Antonio Cea, and Awards and Presentations by Nancy Spatz, presented by students Alex Wood, Emma Costello and James Roy. Members of the robot drive team included students Daniel Schnelle, Jacob Schnitzlein, Justice Weber and Eli Cook. Student Samantha Fuehrer was lead robot mechanic in the pit. Also accompanying the team were mentors Erica Bailey who documented the trip, and Jayne Hartwig who coaches FLL elementary teams associated with Team Titanium.
The students on the team enjoyed the competition, history and tours, but especially enjoyed experiencing the Chinese culture. Most meals were served around large tables for 10 to 20 people with a revolving table in the middle. Sixteen to 20 dishes were presented at each meal and shared by those around the table. The group improved their chopstick skills and were able to eat in the traditional Chinese manner. Dishes included duck, goose, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, beef, shrimp and several types of fish. One meal for some of the tournament volunteers included tripe and jelly fish. Vegetables included beans, sprouts, bok choy, squash, potatoes and many others. Watermelon was commonly served for dessert. Many members of the group took the opportunity to try deep fried scorpion from a sidewalk vendor. Even Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken menus were different with seafood pizza and green pepper chicken fillets.
The LSWHS team was warmly welcomed by the students on the Chinese teams. Although only a few of the Chinese students knew English, they were eager to practice these skills. With very low crime and pervasive security personnel and cameras, the team was very relaxed and comfortable. Even though no LSWHS team members spoke Chinese and often were without translators, the Chinese people were very patient and communicated with gestures, pictures and Google Translate.
One of the Team Titanium coaches, Nancy Spatz, handled much of the logistics and planning for the group. She commented, "This was a wonderful experience for all of us. The historic sites we toured were incredible, but meeting the people and experiencing their culture was even more amazing. We endured long travel days and extremely high temperatures, but all are definitely happy that we got this opportunity, and would gladly do it again!"
Partial funding for this trip was provided by the CUYRA. The team raised over $20,000 to cover remaining expenses. Fundraising included a bake sale at the Lee's Summit Farmers Market, Chipotle night, Papa John’s night, yard game raffle, jewelry sale, LEGO night and a project filling boxes of product for Rockwell Labs, LTD. Donations were received from Rockwell Labs, Crafco, Edward Jones, Velociti, a GoFundMe campaign and many individuals.