HF Robotics will host a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition on Saturday that will draw 11 teams from around the Chicago area.
The robotics competition is free and open to the public. It takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at Marian Catholic High School, 700 Ashland Ave., Chicago Heights.
It’s the first time that HF Robotics has sponsored a regional competition, said Flossmoor resident Cameron Nelson, who founded the group three years ago with his wife, Michelle Nelson, and Mark Matthews. Marian and the Homewood Science Center are co-sponsors of the event, Nelson said.
During Saturday’s competition, team members are challenged to design, build, program and operate robots that compete in a head-to-head challenge.
FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is a global nonprofit that promotes STEM – science, technology, engineering and math -- primarily through organizing robotics competitions, Nelson said. HF Robotics currently has a FIRST Tech Challenge team, primarily eighth graders and a few high school students, and two FIRST LEGO League teams, for students in fourth through seventh grade.
Participants in Saturday’s event are in seventh grade through their senior year in high school. The other teams are from Kankakee, Romeoville, LaGrange, Aurora and Glen Ellyn.
Nelson said HF Robotics has been working on the local FTC event since this summer. It’s important to have such a competition in the South Suburbs, he said.
“Last year, there were no tournaments on the South Side,” he said. “We hiked all the way to Highland Park to compete. This year we wanted to bring some of the tournaments down south, in the hopes that we can show the community what we are doing and generate some further interest among students.”
Nelson said the Homewood Science Center has played an important role in HF Robotics’ development by donating valuable practice space. Marian has been a key sponsor by agreeing to provide space for the competition, he said.
HF Robotics has gotten “a ton of support” from community members, including volunteers Betsy Soehren Jones, Michael Jones and Fredric Mitchell, Nelson said. Coaches include Joe Robertson, Jennifer McIntyre, Rick Uecker and Dan Beezie.
ComEd is also supporting Saturday’s event with several volunteers, he said.
HF Robotics is hosting another FTC Challenge competition at Marian on Jan. 7.