ETA Robotics Plan For A Successful Year

By Samuel Rocha | Photos by Patricia Ayala |

When you think of robots, you think of big, scary, or ionic robotic figures such as The Terminator, R2-D2, and Robocop. But in reality, most robots are smaller and have more of a safer look to them because after all, they impact most of us on a daily basis, whether that be at work, school, or at home. The ETA program has their own FRC (First Robotics Competition) and FTC (First Tech Challenge) club where they create and program their own robots for competition.

Although the members might consist of a younger generation of students, many of them have been experienced in programming since they were in middle school.

“I’ve been in FTC for four years since seventh grade,” said ETA Sophomore Valeria Rosales. “I used to spend my free time learning the programming process on Khan Academy and over time I got information just by browsing on Youtube looking at source code.”

Spicy Ketchup’s robot in display. This robot placed second among many regional teams. Photo by Patricia Ayala

Recently on Jan. 12, FTC Robotics’ “Spicy Ketchup” Team #16377  placed second among teams from around the region while putting up the most total points among all matches, 80 points!

“This is the first ever year I’ve been second place or anywhere in the top 10 and I can look back and see how much I have improved over the years,” Rosales said. “We were finally put into a league against the best team in the region and with that second place win, it gave us the confidence to think we can compete against anybody we want to when we put our mind to it and dedicate the time.”

FTC’s next competition will be in the Regional League Tournament which will be at Texas A&M San Antonio on Feb. 8 at 8 a.m.

Not to get confused with FTC, FRC does have similar aspects to their club such as dealing with robots and programming them, but these robots are noticeably larger and heavier than FTC’s robots.

“FRC is different from FTC because we use bigger robots and FTC makes robots about 2’ X 1’ and FRC has a limit of 120 inches. So we could build a robot to maybe 3’X 3’ or 4’ tall with a weight limit of 120 pounds,” said ETA senior Harrison Lewis.

Spicy Ketchup’s robot picking up yellow block. The robot must stack as manny blocks on top of each other to gain points. Photo by Patricia Ayala

Lewis has been in FRC Robotics for two years but has had plenty of experience of the work they do to program their robots.

“I started FRC as a sophomore when Mr. Saldana, Robotics Head Coach, came up and asked me if I wanted to join because they really need a programmer, and I said sure why not,” said Lewis. “I started programming back in middle school and eventually I began developing small video games and it’s grown to where I can develop larger games and sell it to companies. Now I can apply that same knowledge to the robot we are making and it really helps the team out.”

Like any competitive team, you must have a great leader and coach to succeed against the competition. Saldana and Martinez are very experienced in the robotic knowledge and they impact this team on a daily basis. 

Martinez has a Robotics certification and has coached for the John Jay Engineering Academy Robotics Team and  Saldana has been coaching the ETA Robotics Team for over three years and has a FRC Robotics certification as a coach/mentor. 

FTC final CAD drawing of the robot. Courtesy Photo from FTC RoboRiders

“I want these kids to not only become experienced and gain the skills of robotics but also to become more open to collaboration and teamwork,” said Martinez. “Getting to know each other, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses, and overcoming difficulties they may face.”

To join FRC or FTC, you can show up to a meeting in Room Number 208 in the Saber Building . There’s always a need for individuals regardless of skill set.

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