Tuesday, November 24 , 2015, 7:18 pm | A Few Clouds 60º

Santa Barbara Team Comes Out on Top in Robotics Tournament

Team 6077’s Andrew McGuan, from left, Collin Dutter, Ryan Weideman and Kyle Kovacs show off their robot — and costumes — after last Saturday’s FIRST Tech Challenge in Pasadena.
Team 6077’s Andrew McGuan, from left, Collin Dutter, Ryan Weideman and Kyle Kovacs show off their robot — and costumes — after last Saturday’s FIRST Tech Challenge in Pasadena.  (Kristen Kovacs photo)

By Kristen Kovacs for Team 6077 |

Team 6077 “Syntax Error,” a new robotics team from Santa Barbara, competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge in Pasadena last Saturday and came out on top with the Winning Alliance Award.

The team consists of high school juniors Collin Dutter, Kyle Kovacs and Andrew McGuan from Dos Pueblos High School and Ryan Weideman from San Marcos High School. They began their journey together in August with coach Kristen Kovacs, who meets with the team weekly.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology and math. FTC teams design, build and program their robots to compete on a 12-foot-by-12-foot field in an alliance format against other teams. Robots are built with a TETRIX® platform using sound engineering principles.

This season’s challenge asks the teams to create robots that can collect plastic rings from a dispenser and place them on a vertical grid a la tic-tac-toe with special bonus scoring opportunities. Syntax Error partnered with San Diego team DeEvolution, which had a similar concept with their robot design, to earn the Winning Alliance Award. Not only did the alliance score the most points in the final match, but they scored a record number of points thus far for this year’s challenge.

The team was also recognized for exemplifying the essence of the FTC competition through team spirit and enthusiasm. The Motivate Award is given for team spirit consistent throughout the competition to a team that functions well as a unit. The boys donned green body suits and black capes, which were standout costumes that brought attention and smiles.

“This team was persistent in their journey to build a successful robot,” the judges said. “After a challenging start, they struggled to get their robot to work. ... However, not only did they score a tic-tac-toe, but they are error-fighting superheroes.”

Syntax Error was additionally nominated for the Think Award, given to the team that best documents their journey of the engineering design process.

They started getting together for regular robotic meetings in August and challenged themselves by entering the earliest qualifying competition just two months after this year’s game was announced. The hours and hours of robotic work really paid off.

They are headed to the Los Angeles FIRST Tech Challenge Regional Championship Tournament in March. This contest serves the greater Los Angeles area, including Santa Barbara. The overall winners of the regional championships will qualify to compete at the 2012-13 FTC World Championship in St. Louis on April 24-27.

— Kristen Kovacs is the coach of Team 6077.

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