By Tamas Mondovics
Reporting great success for the fourth consecutive year, TechPlayzone, a science and technology center for young people, Hillsborough Community College (Brandon Campus) and FLATE partnered to host a FIRST Lego League (FLL) qualifying robotics tournament for 15 Tampa Bay teams last month.
TechPlayzone owner, Desh Bagley, explained that the center sponsors two FLL robotics teams including the champion Techno Whizards and a rookie team, the Programming Thunderbots.
While the two teams cannot compete in their own tournament since they use it as a fundraiser, the team members, along with their parents, volunteer at the qualifying FLL tournament, which provides an opportunity for other FLL robotics teams to advance to the next level.
Explaining the sequence of events, Bagley said that on December 8, the qualifying event attracted more than 200 elementary and middle school students from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Bradenton counties to the HCC-Brandon campus with excited teams hoping to secure a bid to the Tampa Bay Regional Competition.
After a very competitive day at HCC-Brandon, the Wired Wildcats and Knights of Technology both from Pinellas County, along with the Cyborgs of South Tampa, won bids to the Tampa Bay Regional FLL tournament.
“Our TechPlayzone’s rookie team cheered on the winners, but felt pangs of anticipation, as it was hoping to secure their Regional bid at Middleton High School a week later,” Bagley said. Reaching the qualifying tournament at Middleton High School hosted by one of the school’s robotics team welcomed 17 teams competing in hopes of securing a spot at Regionals.
While scoring the highest points of the day, the Programming Thunderbots were unable to secure a Regional bid.
The Championship title went to Mulrennan Middle School’s Mustechs, as the other teams advanced to Regionals, including the Winthrop Mindstorms of Valrico, Panther Tech of Fort Myers, and the Ibots of Tampa.
There are six Regional tournaments in the state. Eight teams from each Regional tournament will advance to the State FLL tournament to be held at the University of Central Florida in Orlando in March.
For more information about the Florida FIRST Lego League organization, visit www.flrobotics.org. For information about Tampa Bay FLL teams, visit www.techplayzone.com or call 684-7329.