Robots set for action Feb. 2 and 3 at Penn State York

FTC robotics competition features 54 teams of middle and high school students and the game 'Rover Ruckus'
Robotics Tourney at York

Penn State York will host two days of robotics competition, the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) South Central PA Regional Qualifier, robotics competition, on Saturday, Feb. 2 and the Blue and White Qualifier on Sunday, Feb. 3.  Rover Ruckus is the game and 54 teams of middle and high school students will compete for the opportunity to move on to the state competition.

Credit: Barbara Dennis

YORK, Pa. — "Rover Ruckus," a theme in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. moon landing, is the name of the game when 54 teams of middle and high school students participate in the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) South Central PA Regional Qualifier, robotics competition, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Blue and White Qualifier on Sunday, Feb. 3, at Penn State York.

The competition takes place in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center on campus and is free and open to the public. More than 1,000 attendees, including competitors and spectators, are expected during the two days of competition.

Teams registered to compete at Penn State York are from Ontario, Canada, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and throughout Pennsylvania. This is the ninth time the campus has hosted the FTC event but the first time there has been two days of competition.  

“The event was turned into two separate one-day tournaments this year to accommodate the demand to compete in this region,” said Amy Harmon Krtanjek, one of the coordinators of the event, interim director of The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies, and a lecturer in engineering at Penn State York.

The Saturday competition includes 30 teams, with five teams advancing to the Pennsylvania State Championship to be held in March 2019. The Sunday competition includes 24 teams, with four teams earning the opportunity to advance to the state tournament.

Prior to the start of competition, Penn State York Admissions is holding a parent information session at 9:30 a.m. both days. Parents can learn more about programs and degrees at the University during this 50-minute program.

View photos from last year’s competition on Flickr.

Opening ceremonies are at 11 a.m. each day, followed by competitions throughout the two days. Prior to the ceremony, teams will have an opportunity to get organized, register their robots and prepare for competition.

These events are made possible on campus thanks to a generous grant from the Pullo Family Fund.

Visit the website for the complete list of participants and those on the waiting list for Saturday. Check out Sunday's participants here.

Rover Ruckus, the game for the 2018-19 season, is played on a 12' x 12' playing surface where alliances of two robots work together against another alliance of two robots in a match lasting 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Teams score points by completing tasks that highlight the robot's capabilities. In the first 30 seconds, robots operate completely autonomously from preprogrammed instructions the team has completed, deploying from a hanging position, using computer vision to "sample" minerals and performing other tasks before the 30-second time expires.

The match then continues in tele-operated mode where two students drive and operate their robots to score as many minerals into the cargo holds of the center-placed lander as possible. At the final 30 seconds of the match, robots aim to reattach to the lander on the field and lift off the ground to earn significant points. 

The matches test the strategy, robustness and character of the teams as they work to be in the top 4 ranking at the conclusion of qualification matches. Elimination brackets are played by the four alliances to determine the winning alliance for the robot game.

In addition to the game, teams also present their robot designs, engineering notebooks and summary of their outreach efforts off the field, to compete for judged awards. Professionals from the local community volunteer as judges and other event positions to support the tournament. This is one of numerous tournaments held throughout the state during the season to qualify the top teams to advance to the state championship.

Marshall F. Coyle, associate professor of engineering at Penn State York, is the volunteer coordinator for the event, and is responsible for filling the many positions necessary to make the competition possible. It was his idea to bring the competition to campus nine years ago. Penn State York students, faculty, staff and business members from the York community work as volunteers during the competition, filling a variety of roles from judges to field tech advisers, scorekeepers, software inspectors and more.


The acronym FIRST means "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," and the organization was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, an accomplished inventor, who wanted to inspire young people to appreciate science and technology. The FIRST Tech Challenge program is one of the four levels of FIRST, a worldwide robotics competition that engages more than 500,000 students each year. The FIRST Tech Challenge is open to students in grades 7-12.

Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation and sharing ideas. Participants have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships.

According to Thomas Zawislak, FIRST FTC affiliate partner, team members are part of an alliance trying to perform tasks on the field with their robots. The event emphasizes gracious professionalism; winning is nice but the design process and participant attitude are the important goals. Teams assist each other and members develop friendships and camaraderie throughout the competition.

Teams are judged on their sportsmanship, performance of their robots, completion of tasks, ability to follow rules, and a variety of other criteria. Following a sports model, teams of middle and high school-aged students are challenged to design, build, and program a robot to play a floor game against other teams’ creations.

For information about FIRST, visit the website.

Schedule for both Saturday and Sunday

  • 7 a.m. — Volunteers Arrive and Check-in
  • 7:45 a.m. — Teams Arrive and Check-in; Robot and Field Inspection Begins
  • 8:20 a.m. — Judge Interviews Begin
  • 10:30 a.m. — Drivers Meeting On Competition Field
  • 10:45 a.m. — Que First Two Matches
  • 11 a.m. — Opening Ceremonies
  • 11:15 a.m. — Qualification Matches Begin
  • 12:30 p.m. — Lunch
  • 1 p.m. — Qualification Matches Resume
  • 3:15 p.m. — Start Semifinals
  • 4:15 p.m. — Start Finals
  • 5 p.m. — Awards and Closing Ceremonies
  • 5:30 p.m. — Event Complete